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1957 Indonesian local elections

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Local elections were held in parts of Indonesia in the second half of 1957 to elect provincial and regency and city councils. The Communist Party of Indonesia won a larger share of the vote than it had in the 1955 legislative election, the only major party to do so. The PKI's success, and the declining or stagnant support for other parties, caused concern that the PKI might dominate the planned 1959 national legislative elections, one reason these did not take place.


In 1956, transitional regional assemblies were established, with composition corresponding to party vote share in the 1955 elections. The following year, Law No. 1/1957 provided for three levels of local government – province, regency and village. The directly elected province and regency governments would elect a regional executive, the Regional Administrative Council (Indonesian: Dewan Pemerintah Daerah, DPD), which would have a composition in line with local parties’ vote shares. The DPD chairman would be a regional executive, and would have to be approved by the government in Jakarta. There would be Wide-ranging regional autonomy, which would mean and greatly increased influence for the political parties.[1] Due to the ongoing regional rebellions, elections could only be held in Java, South Sumatra and Riau (and Kalimantan in 1958).[2]


Except for the PKI, the campaign was rather lacklustre campaign, partly because the main issue at time was the regional rebellions. As it was clear that regional elections would not solve this problem, they were seen as irrelevant. There were also restrictions on party activities because Indonesia was then under martial law, which had been declared in mid-March 1957. In East Java, for example, the military allowed only four days of campaigning. Rallies and demonstrations were monitored.[2][3]

In addition, the parties had spent significant amounts on the 1955 elections, and some had to rely on remaining funds. The PKI only party with plenty of funds. The parties focused on areas where they had done well in 1955, thus Masjumi concentrated their efforts in Jakarta, and West Java, the Nahdlatul Ulama on East Java and the Indonesian National Party (PNI) across Java. As the PKI had never served in cabinets, it escaped blame for government shortcomings. The party used a slogan urging people to vote PKI “to carry out the Konsepsi”, meaning President Sukarno's concept of an inclusive government reaching all decisions by consensus. The communists also attacked other parties for their corruption. The authorities arrested senor PNI, Masjumi and NU officials for corruption, but no PKI figures. The PKI campaigned on giving land to the poor, but other parties could not counter this as sometimes the land belonged to their leaders or financial backers. From May 6–11, Soviet head of state Voroshilov paid a state visit to Indonesia, and Soviet flags were widely displayed, which may have assisted the PKI's campaign.[4][5]

Election results


The election in Jakarta was held 22 June, and was contested by 43 parties. There was a lower turnout than the 1955 elections, possibly because of rain and problems with voter cards. The turnout was approximately 70 percent, down from 75 percent in 1955. The PKI was the only party to increase its vote over the 1955 result, and it moved up from fourth to second position.[6]

Party votes % % change
from 1955
Masjumi 153,709 22.0% -4.1%
Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI) 137,305 19.7% 7.1%
Indonesian National Party (PNI) 124,955 17.9% -1.9%
Nahdatul Ulama (NU) 104,892 15.0% -0.7%
Indonesian Islamic Union Party (PSII) 22,717 3.3% 0.2%
Socialist Party of Indonesia (PSI) 20,089 2.9% -1.7%
Indonesian Christian Party (Parkindo) 14,583 2.1% -0.2%
Consultative Council on Indonesian Citizenship (Baperki) 26,642 3.8% 0.3%
League of Supporters of Indonesian Independence (IPKI) 9,818 1.4% -0.5%
Catholic Party 7,234 1.0% 0.0%
Total 698,575

Central Java

The PNI had won more than a third of the vote in the 1955 elections, with the PKI on over 25 percent. There was considerable tension between parties. ahead of the elections, which were held on 17 July. The turnout was approximately 85 percent. The result was a shock for PNI leaders as the PKI gained votes from PNI, reversing the positions from the 1955 elections and coming first overall.[7][8]

Party votes % % change
from 1955
PKI 2,706,893 31.8 +5.9
PNI 2,235,714 26.3 -8.8
NU 1,771,556 20.8 +0.1
Masjumi 714,722 8.4 -1.2


In Yogyakarta, elections were held on November 7. The PKI finished on top by a significant margin.[7][8]

Party votes
PKI 298,257
PNI 164,568
NU 94,012
Masjumi 118,985

East Java

The PNI was not as popular in East Java as it was in Central Java, and had problems with internal party strife. In the election, held on 29 July, the PKI was the only party that increased its vote, and voters appeared to switch from the PNI to the PKI. However, the NU retained its leading position. The Surabaya branch of the PNI claimed there were irregularities and called for voting there to be repeated. The Home Affairs Minister (from the PNI) Sanusi agreed and ordered the vote to be held again. This took place on 25 February 1958.[7][9]

Party Votes % % change
from 1955
NU 2,999,785 30.4 -3.7
PKI 2,704,523 27.4 +4.1
PNI 1,899,782 19.2 -3.6
Masjumi 977,443 9.9 -1.3

West Java

In staunchly Islamic West Java, the Islamist Masjumi Party had come first in the 1955 election, and it retained this position in 1957. The PNI vote fell sharply, and again the PKI vote rose. The election was held on 10 August.[7][10]

Party Votes % % change
from 1955
Masjumi 1,841,030 26.1 +0.8
PKI 1,087,269 15.4 +3.5
PNI 1,055,801 15.0 -7.8
NU 597,356 8.5 -1.5

South Sumatra

By 1 December, when elections were held in South Sumatra, the PNI was in turmoil because of the results from Java. There was widespread anti-communist activity in the lead up to the vote: the military played a part in this. However, the PKI still obtained more votes than in 1955, possibly partly due to support from ethnic Javanese settlers.[7][11]

Party Votes % % change
from 1955
Masjumi 553,276 38.0 -5.1
PKI 228,965 15.7 +3.6
PNI 187,042 12.9 -1.8
NU 113,888 7.8 -0.2


The huge PKI vote prompted party leader D.N. Aidit to claim that this was an increase of 45 percent over the 1955 election vote.[12] The PKI was then able to take control of regional councils in Java and ensure the appointment of several communists as mayors. The results made dissenters outside Java more suspicious of Java, and the fear of Javanese domination of the outer islands became conflated with concerns about communism. This made it more difficult to find a solution to the disputes. It also strengthened the determination of Army leaders to destroy the PKI, and forced other parties to think seriously about why the PKI was gaining popularity, and they were not.[11][13] It seemed likely that PKI support would continue to increase, and that of other parties fall further. As no PKI members sat in cabinet, the party could not be blamed for the government's failures and corruption.[14] These parties believed they would be unable to rectify this before elections due in 1959, and therefore did not want these elections to go ahead.[15] Alarmed by the results, regional leaders held a national conference in September to harmonize relations between them and the central government. Delegates called for the restoration of the Sukarno-Hatta leadership, the establishment of a senate and the banning of the PKI. However none of these demands were met.[16] In May 1958, the army used its emergency powers to cancel the 1959 elections, with the support of Sukarno, who was keen to move towards his system of guided democracy.[12]


  1. ^ Lev 2009, p. 105.
  2. ^ a b Lev 2009, p. 104.
  3. ^ Sundhaussen 1982, p. 129.
  4. ^ Lev 2009, p. 106.
  5. ^ Sundhaussen 1982, p. 128.
  6. ^ Lev 2009, p. 111.
  7. ^ a b c d e Wertheim 1959, p. 355.
  8. ^ a b Lev 2009, p. 113.
  9. ^ Lev 2009, p. 114.
  10. ^ Lev 2009, p. 115-116.
  11. ^ a b Lev 2009, p. 116-117.
  12. ^ a b Palfrey Jones 1973, p. 106.
  13. ^ Wertheim 1959, pp. 353-355.
  14. ^ Wertheim 1959, p. 353.
  15. ^ Lev 2009, p. 121.
  16. ^ Sundhaussen 1982, p. 186.


  • Lev, Daniel S. (2009) [1966]. The Transition to Guided Democracy: Indonesian Politics 1957-1959. Singapore: Equinox Publishing. ISBN 978-602-8397-40-7.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Palfrey Jones, Howard (1973). Indonesia: The Possible Dream. Singapore: Mas Aju (S) Pte Ltd. ISBN 0-15-144371-8.
  • Sundhaussen, Ulf (1982). The Road to Power: Indonesian Military Politics 1945-1967. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-582521-7.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Wertheim, W.F. (1959). Indonesian Society in Transition: A Study of Social Change (2nd ed.). The Hague: W. van Hoev.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
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1957 Indonesian local elections
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