When does class matter? Unequal representation in Indonesian legislatures

Eve Warburton, Burhanuddin Muhtadi, Edward Aspinall, Diego Fossati

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    Around the world, legislatures are dominated by politicians who are wealthier and more educated than their constituents. This is particularly so in developing democracies, where clientelist politics and wealth inequalities make it difficult for lower-class citizens to run for office. We contribute to scholarly debates about the substantive consequences of descriptive inequality by analysing a new and important case – Indonesia, the world’s third most populous democracy. Indonesian politicians have much higher levels of education and income than citizens, and they are more likely to have professional backgrounds. To explore the implications of these inequalities, we survey and compare politicians’ and voters’ positions on a range of economic policy issues. We find the views of Indonesian politicians are generally more congruent with those of upper-class voters. However, we also find variation across policy areas. There is much cross-class agreement on statist interventions like price controls – in part reflecting politicians’ dependence upon the state; however, the gap between voters and politicians widens substantially on the issue of economic redistribution. Upper-class biases within Indonesian legislatures thus obscure a large lower-class constituency in favour of a more redistributive economic regime, a consituency largely unrepresented by Indonesia’s parties.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1252-1275
    JournalThird World Quarterly
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - 2021


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