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Three Arms of Government

Macro level public policy discussions often draw distinctions between three arms of government: the administration, the legislature, and the judiciary. In countries where the relationships between these governmental arms are established the overall quality of governance is much better than in countries where the relationships are in a state of flux. Many developing countries, including Indonesia, fall into the latter group. For these countries, establishing productive and stable governing relationships between the three arms of government takes considerable time, and such changes are greatly influenced by the political processes.

But Indonesia also has other influential arms of government, less beholden to political processes, that often wield considerable real power. Since Independence the military has played an important role in civilian and commercial affairs, as have various state owned enterprises (SOEs). And especially large SOEs, like Pertamina, are seen as influential states within a state. Thus a well-functioning political process in Indonesia is necessary to achieve acceptable and effective balances of power between these various arms of government.

The views expressed in this paper are the views of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Asian Development Bank Institute (ADBI), the Asian Development Bank (ADB), its Board of Directors, or the governments they represent. ADBI does not guarantee the accuracy of the data included in this paper and accepts no responsibility for any consequences of their use. Terminology used may not necessarily be consistent with ADB official terms.

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  1. Peter McCawley, author of this paper
    (posted 30 March 2007 / 11:47:39 AM)

    Peter McCawley, author of this policy brief responds to the comment below:

    There seem to be at least two important points which arise from these observations. The first is that while it is certainly true that the three constitutional arms of government are the legislature, the judiciary, and the executive, it is also true that relationship between these three arms of government in Indonesia is as yet rather uncertain. In many areas, the true relationship (that is, the true balance of power) between these three arms in Indonesia is still vague. The relationship between the three arms has varied dramatically in the six decades since Independence in 1945. At times, the executive (in the shape of the President) has been very strong while the other two arms have been weak. More recently, since President Soeharto resigned in 1998, the legislature and the judiciary appear to have expanded their real powers. In short, the definition of the relative powers of real influence and authority in Indonesia between these three arms of government is still, more than is that case in many other countries, a 'work in progress'. The relationships are evolving, and are likely to continue to evolve in the coming decades.

    Second, in practice, other parts of society are important players in the process of governance in Indonesia as well. These other parts of society are generally not specifically mentioned in the Indonesian Constitution but in practice they exercise (to a greater or lesser extent) influence in the broad governance of Indonesian. These groups include the military, the media, and broader parts of civil society (religious organisations, professional groups, trade unions, producer organisations, universities, non-government organisations, think tanks, and so on). Any discussion of governance in Indonesia needs to allow for the role that these other organisations, some of which may be called "non-state actors", play in Indonesian society.

  2. golding imoh
    (posted 23 March 2007 / 12:08:30 AM)

    The government legislature, judiciary and the executive are the three arms of government we have. The executive that we refer as the president in a country, while the legislature they are the people who enforce the law. Take for instance, if the executive enforces law on the people without passing it to the legislature to confirm it, will it be law? If the legislature makes law and passes it to the executive to sign it, if the executive refuses to sign after 30 days in his office it becomes a law. If the legislature enforces law on the people they want the people to benefit from it and also for the satisfaction of the country.

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