Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 05/2008

The Evolution of Cleavages in the Indonesian Party System

Andreas Ufen

April 2008

German Institute of Global and Area Studies


The basic patterns of the initial Indonesian party system have reemerged after more than four decades of authoritarianism. The cleavage model by Lipset and Rokkan is well-suited to analyzing the genesis of and the most salient features of this party system. However, in applying the approach, some adjustments have to be made. For instance, the national and industrial revolutions have to be conceived of differently. Moreover, it is useful to distinguish critical phases in the formation of parties. The four cleavages have to be reinterpreted and additional ones need to be identified. In Indonesia, economic cleavages are hardly significant in conflicts between political parties (especially the “capital” versus “labour” cleavage) or are expressed in terms of religion or allegiance to political leaders based in a specific region (“urban” versus “rural”). In addition, in comparison with 1999 and particularly with the 1950s, today’s cleavages are less marked. Thus, the Lipset- Rokkan model has to be combined with other approaches which underline the importance of clientelism and the dealignment of parties.