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IMPROVING COMMUNICATION BETWEEN MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT, POLITICAL PARTIES AND CITIZENS

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Institute for Research and Empowerment


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embers of Parliament (MPs), political parties, and citizens communicate with each other in different ways. Thus, the responses are different resulting in ineffective communication. The channels of communication between MPs, political parties and citizens have not been utilized effectively. Elected officials do not effectively inform their constituents of how their government works for them. Political parties, large and small, have not developed a communication plan to connect MPs to the constituents. Citizens need to develop additional communication channels, aside from demonstrations, if they are to play an active role in public policy development. Public policy forums are one way to connect MPs, political parties, and citizens. An effective MP represents his/her constituency; the aggregate and articulate the interests of their constituency. Successful articulation occurs when a member of parliament can voice their constituency's concerns through public policy development. Successful aggregation is the process of identifying, collecting, selecting and formulating various constituent interests. When an MP can bridge their constituency's aspirations to the public policy debate, they have successfully represented their constituency. There are often times competing interests that a member of parliament must manage. If MPs have an effective communication strategy that includes constituents, civil society organizations (non-governmental organizations, professional associations, interest groups, etc) and political parties it will be easier to prioritize competing interests. The overall quality of representation by an elected official can be strengthened by working with various segments of their community to develop public policy.

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Steps members of parliament can take: PLANNING AND BUDGETING Practical Steps: 1. Initiate a forum Konstituen Dapil (electoral district constituent group) forum is a forum where political party representatives and MPs organize a meeting for delegates representing villages and various constituent groups (farmers, fishermen, teachers, vendors, etc) in the electoral district. The forum is held as preparation for the sub-district level musrenbang (local development planning forum), SKPD (local apparatus working unit) forum, as well as the district level musrenbang. This forum is used to aggregate the aspirations of various constituencies. Musrenbang is a forum where the executive usually gathers information about the village and the community.

Musrenbang is also a major mechanism in the system of planning development. In Konstituen Dapil forum, MPs together with constituents, develop an agreement on how to prioritize issues that should be advanced through a work plan for further local development. The APBD (regional budget) will be drafted from this work plan. 2. Discuss the budget document collaboratively MPs can build partnerships with NGOs through a participatory budget process and invite the NGOs to share their thoughts and concerns on various budget documents such as the KUA-PPAS (policy and preliminary ceiling), the RKS (budget work plan) and the draft RAPBD (regional annual proposal). By collaborating together the MPs and the NGOs will better understand each other's concerns and interests.

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BUDGET OVERSIGHT MPs can work together with their political parties' research department; research NGOs, sectoral NGOs, and community groups to play an important oversight role by monitoring the implementation of budget priorities. This will allow oversight by credible third parties and will allow the process to be more transparent.

2. Regular progress reports to constituents. Political parties can facilitate gatherings of legislative members from every sub-district to enable the MPs to brief their constituents on their activities in parliament. Constituent meetings (forums) offer MPs the opportunity to hear from voters updates and concerns on issues of importance to the local community.

Practical Steps: 1. Credible third parties can provide oversight of the APBD implementation through the SKPD (regional Apparatus Unit). Third parties can assess the documents of budget implementation from SKPD and monitor the implementation of activities in the field and then discuss any developments with interested constituent groups. 2. Credible third parties can provide long term oversight by evaluating implementation of prior development projects. This evaluation can be relayed to interested constituent groups.

ESTABLISH A PARTNERSHIP WITH THE MEDIA Practical Steps: 1. Ask the local newspaper to publish and analyze the proposed budget and supporting documents during the budgeting process. 2. Work with the local media to help track and monitor the implementation of existing projects that receive public funds. Invite the editor(s) of the local newspaper(s) to speak at the beginning of your constituent meeting(s)�. Remember, the media will likely give you more coverage (often times favorable) if they have been involved in the event(s).

HOLDING PUBLIC HEARINGS Discussions of draft government regulation usually occur in closed-door settings especially when it affects particular communities. For example, a draft ordinance that would regulate street side vendors usually takes place in a closed-door setting. By conducting hearings that are open to the public, the process will be more transparent and will be enriched by the public comments. It is the hope that the end regulation will better reflect the needs of the public and their concerns on issues affecting them.

HIGHLIGHT PROFILES OF MPs Practical Steps: 1. After the election season has ended and officials are hard at work, many constituents/voters forget who won the election. Publishing pictures and names of those who were elected is helpful in reminding constituents/voters who you are and what you do. Posters, palm cards and newspapers are a great way to remind constituents/voters who you are and that it is your job to help them. 2. Include your name, address, telephone number, email address and hours when constituents/voters can reach you. This is a good way to make sure they know that you are there to represent them and care about the issues that are important to them.

Practical Steps: 1. Publicize the timetable and agenda of the Parliament when meeting with constituents. Commonly, constituents are not aware of the time frame when the parliament will review or act on a particular issue. The process of legislating and budgeting consists of many stages and often times the base product changes over the course of that process. A detailed explanation of each stage would provide constituents with an understanding of where they can affect particular legislation or regulations. 2. Publish posters in a public area of the timetables and agendas for the regulatory process. The posters should contain the date, time, agenda, schedule and process of public comment. MEET WITH CONSTITUENTS Practical Step: MPs should routinely meet with their constituents in their districts. The meetings can be clustered by sub-districts. Facilitated by the party's cadres, MPs can also use existing cultural-social forums such as pengajian (Muslim religious gatherings), tahlilan (a religious gathering where attendees recite passages from the Quran), kumpulan kesenian (art-group meetings), etc. The meetings should address the following issues: 1. Share their road-map for fulfilling their promises using legislative efforts to influence public policy. Following legislative elections help newly MP clarify and improve upon various promises made to voters during the campaign.

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HOW POLITICAL PARTIES CAN SUPPORT THEIR MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT

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Practical Steps: 1. Educate the Party Members An effective way for the political parties to support their elected members is to educate the party members. These party members especially the young ones can be effectively (and easily) mobilized to help MPs show support for their public policy initiatives. The qualities that the party members possess; creativity, loyalty, commitment and tested ability to perform are valuable tools that will continue to strengthen the political party.

3. User Based Survey Training (UBS) User based surveys are an effective tool used to measure the attitudes of people as the end user of government services. For example, UBS's can be carried out to assess the feelings of the poor towards the public heath care they receive from the government. The goal of the UBS is to provide data which can be used to communicate effectively with the public agency that provides these services to help improve health care for the poor.

These qualities increase membership and prepare younger party members for future leadership roles within the political party. The first step to becoming future leaders is political education.

It will be important to your efforts if the agency you are attempting to advocate on behalf of your constituents, accepts the UBS data as accurate. One way to ensure this is to involve the agency in the development of the questionnaire.

2. Basic Leadership Training: a. Leadership training offers party members a deeper understanding of a party's ideology, its platform, the government's budgeting process, core programs of the government and the many policies that the political party supports and opposes. Also covered would be training on how to organize groups of people, political communication, campaign skills and managing the political party's operations. b. Party members should learn the basics of legislative roles, planning, budgeting and supervision. If you expect your party members to support you, they need to be able to speak authoritatively on how government functions.

There are two different ways the UBS results can be used: a. As a method for MPs to oversee the administration of public services and projects. Following the completion of the UBS, the results become available to lawmakers for use in policy deliberations. b. UBS data can play an important role in educating and raise awareness among the public. UBS data can help raise the public consciousness and commitment to helping MPs reach their goals.

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STRENGTHENING THE ROLE OF CITIZENS

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hrough regular elections, a properly functioning democracy will always keep power in the hands of the people. It is for this reason that a government will act to implement policies that have the best interests of the people it serves at their core. The key to a strong democracy is continued citizen participation between elections. The ability of citizens to interact with their MPs and make their voices heard is a fundamental building block of any successful democratic representative form of government. Below are several ways in which citizens can engage MPs and advocate for their interests: REQUEST A PUBLIC HEARING A single person is elected to represent each constituency at the national level; citizens are able to identify who they should relay their views to. MPs should be encouraged to hold regular public meetings with citizens to allow them to identify issues of importance. Attending these meetings, citizens receive important information about the elected official, such as the challenges faced in fulfilling past promises, various achievements and obstacles faced in representing the aspirations citizens have for government. Public hearings allow MPs to interact with various stakeholders in the public policy arena, receive testimony from citizens on important issues, and make statements which reflect the needs of the people who the official represents.

BECOME A POLITICAL PARTY MEMBER Practical Step: Get involved; research the positions of political parties and find the one that most closely aligns with your beliefs. Then join the party! Make sure you investigate the behavior of a party's cadres, who runs the party, the programs the party supports and how the party is structure. As a member of a political party you can help influence the behavior of that party and the policy agenda it supports. SUBMIT A MEDIA RELEASE Practical Step: If you have followed all the procedures for trying to get MPs to be more responsive to the community, get the media involved. By issuing a statement to the press, you draw attention to a specific problem voter/citizens face in their area. If the press functions properly, they will ask the MPs to comment on the problem and what he/she intends to do about it. ACTIVELY ATTEND DEVELOPMENT PLANNING CONFERENCES Practical Step: Citizens should have a role in the development planning at the outset of policy discussions. Development planning conferences should be held at the lowest level of government making it possible for citizens to communicate their views to their MPs and what they want their communities to look like moving into the future.

Practical Step: 1. Go to the appropriate government office and ask for the names of MPs in your area. 2. Send a formal request to those MPs asking for them to hold a public hearing on the issues important to you and those in your community. 3. Follow-up on your letter by arranging a call or face-toface meeting with the MPs to make your request in person. 4. Mobilize others in your community to send letters asking for a public hearing. ATTEND OPEN MEETINGS Practical Step: Citizens should be encouraged to attend all open meetings held by MPs and respect the structure of the meeting by following the rules and regulations associated with that meeting and minding common social norms. The presence of voters/citizens at the meeting will send a strong signal to the MPs that there is voter/citizen interest in what they do.

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IMPROVING WOMEN'S POLITICAL REPRESENTATION

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omen in Indonesia do not possess the basic political skills necessary to have a thorough understanding of political representation. Even in circumstances where women understand the importance of political participation, they often do not know how to advocate for themselves or who they should be advocating to. In Indonesia, women face few obstacles in political participation. They turn out to vote on Election Day, are active in social and economic activities and get involved in their community activities. Even in village areas, it is common for women to associate themselves in market trade organizations, traditional medicine trace organizations, vegetable organizations, rice trade organizations, music organizations, and more. These associations are inseparable pars of the community, and therefore should be included in policy-making. However, since women do not recognize that being involved in trade organizations and associations is in fact an aspect of policy-making, their voices often go unheard. Thus, there are no steps taken to influence the decision-making process and consequently women are under-represented in the political process.� The needs of women can be broken into two categories: strategic and practical. Generally strategic needs refer to and include power distribution, access to decision

making and equality in division of labor and responsibilities. Whereas practical needs refer to everything dealing with survival, including access to food, health, education, shelter and water. In order to tackle this problem, building as well as improving women's political representation is important. Practical Steps: 1.Women's organizations can initiate and invite legislative members and political party leaders to discuss how to participate in the political process, how policy is made, how it affects the lives of women in Indonesia, the importance of participating in politics and policy making and who they can reach out to if they want to become involved; 2. NGOs and government organizations can provide a forum for women's organizations to use in order to meet with and communicate with their political representatives; 3. Often times women are members of several different organizations and/or associations; they should utilize these meetings as networking opportunities to disseminate as much information as they can, this way they are building their own political support system for women; 4.Women's organizations can strengthen their partnerships with NGOs and other organizations within the political parties to enable political education and empowerment.

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THE WORKING TEAM Writers: AAGN Ari Dwipayana Arie Sujito Ashari Cahyo Edi Nur Azizah Titok Hariyanto Editor: Ashari Cahyo Edi Layout: Adrozen Ahmad

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Improving MPs, party and constituent Engagement  

Courtesy: International of Republican Institute (IRI) and Institute for Research and Empowerment (IRE), 2009.