2017 | Tom 1 | 89-107
Article title

The Centripetal Spatial Vote Distribution Requirement in Presidential Elections: The Cases of Nigeria and Indonesia

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The principal aim of this article is to explain the specificity of the requirement for a spatial distribution of votes in presidential elections – an institution that has existed in Nigeria since 1979 and in Indonesia since 2001. It also seeks to describe the political conditions which contributed to that institution’s introduction and functioning in those two countries. The article will end with a comparison between the two cases, including a discussion of the present differences between them. The article will also contain a preliminary appraisal of whether the existence of the requirement in question is helping to reduce the level of conflictive behaviour in relations between ethnic groups in the multi-ethnic societies of Nigeria and Indonesia
Physical description
  • * Center for the Research on Multiethnic Societies, Institute of Mediterranean and Oriental Cultures, Polish Academy of Sciences, e-mail:
  • This article was written as part of project no. 2014/15/B/HS5/01174, entitled Centripetalism as a Model of Political System for Multi-Ethnic States: Comparative Analysis of Two Cases, financed by the National Science Centre, Poland.
  • For more on this subject, see Krzysztof Trzciński, ‘Centrypetalizm – integrujący system polityczny dla państw wieloetnicznych. Zarys teorii empirycznej’ [‘Centripetalism – An Integrative Political System for Multiethnic Countries: An Outline of the Empirical Theory’], Studia Polityczne [Political Studies], Vol. 39, No. 3, 2015, pp. 183–213.
  • The present article is based on an earlier one published in Polish (Krzysztof Trzciński, ‘Wymóg uzyskania terytorialnego rozłożenia głosów (poparcia) w wyborach prezydenckich’ [‘Spatial Vote Distribution Requirement in Presidential Elections’], Athenaeum, Vol. 49, 2016, pp. 113–137), which contains, among other things, a discussion of the case of Kenya, but which does not examine the requirement in question in the context of centripetalism and power-sharing.
  • D.L. Horowitz, Ethnic Groups in Conflict, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985, p. 647.
  • T.D. Sisk, Power Sharing and International Mediation in Ethnic Conflicts, Washington DC: United States Institute of Peace, 1996; D.L. Horowitz, ‘Ethnic Power Sharing: Three Big Problems’, Journal of Democracy, Vol. 25, No. 2, pp. 5–20; S. Wolff, ‘Consociationalism, Power Sharing, and Politics at the Center’ in The International Studies Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, R.A. Denemark (ed.), Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010, pp. 535–556; B. Reilly, Democracy and Diversity: Political Engineering in the Asia-Pacific, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007; M. Basedau, ‘Managing Ethnic Conflict: The Menu of Institutional Engineering’, GIGA Working Papers, Issue 171, 2011, pp. 1–29.
  • Reilly, Democracy and Diversity…, pp. 83–91; B. Reilly, ‘Centripetalism’ in Routledge Handbook of Ethnic Conflict, K. Cordell and S. Wolff (eds), London: Routledge, 2011, pp. 291–295; B. Reilly, ‘Centripetalism: Cooperation, Accommodation, and Integration’ in Conflict Management in Divided Societies: Theories and Practice, S. Wolff and Ch. Yakinthou (eds), New York: Routledge, 2011, pp. 57–64.
  • The fourth element of centripetalism is mentioned in the literature – the use of so-called preferential voting, in the form of either a single transferable vote or an alternative vote, in parliamentary elections (especially to the lower chamber). Such voting, through the ranking of candidates, makes it possible for voters to indicate preferences among candidates of different parties. In the case of centripetalism, the aim of such voting would be to reduce chances of the election to parliament of politicians showing little restraint in their political views and actions, particularly with regard to inter-segmental relations. Preferential voting systems functioned for a time in Sri Lanka, Fiji and in Papua New Guinea, among other places. See Reilly, Democracy and Diversity…, pp. 115–118; A. McCulloch, ‘Does Moderation Pay? Centripetalism in Deeply Divided Societies’, Ethnopolitics, Vol. 12, No. 2, 2013, pp. 111–132; A. McCulloch, ‘The Track Record of Centripetalism in Deeply Divided Places’ in Power-Sharing in Deeply Divided Places, J. McEvoy and B. O’Leary (eds), Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013, pp. 94–111.
  • According to the estimates of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Nigeria’s nominal GDP in 2016 amounted to about 405 billion USD, which made this country the world’s 27th largest economy and the largest in Africa. See International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database, Washington DC, October 2017:
  • (accessed 29.11.2017).
  • Worldometers, Population in 2017: Nigeria: (accessed 14.11.2017).
  • Encyclopedia of the Nations, Nigeria: (accessed 10.10.2017).
  • The term “ethnic group” is understood by the author as a group of people who see themselves as a distinct cultural community; who often share a common language, religion, kinship, and/or physical characteristics (such as skin color); and who tend to harbor negative and hostile feelings toward members of other ethnic groups, as defined in A. Lijphart, ‘Multiethnic Democracy’ in The Encyclopedia of Democracy, Vol. 3, S.M. Lipset (ed.), London: Routledge, 1995, p. 853.
  • Index Mundi, Nigeria Demographics Profile 2017:
  • (accessed 29.11.2017).
  • Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Nigeria: (accessed 10.10.2017).
  • Index Mundi, Nigeria Demographics Profile…
  • Ibidem.
  • The Biafra Republic, with its capital in Enugu, was recognized by only 5 states and existed formally until 1970.
  • See, for example, R. Luckham, The Nigerian Military: A Sociological Analysis of Authority and Revolt 1960–67, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1971, pp. 298–340.
  • The notion of “ethnic conflict” (also “interethnic conflict”) is understood by the author as defined by Errol A. Henderson, as a dispute between rival groups, which identify themselves mainly in terms of ethnic criteria (i.e., connected with such common traits as ethnicity/nationality, language, religion and race), and which raise group claims to resources on the basis of their group rights. See E.A. Henderson, ‘Ethnic Conflict and Cooperation’ in Encyclopedia of Violence, Peace, and Conflict, Vol. 1, L. Kurtz (ed.), San Diego: Academic Press, 1999, p. 751.
  • See, for example, Horowitz, Ethnic Groups in Conflict…, pp. 612–613.
  • R.T. Suberu, ‘Federalism and the Management of Ethnic Conflict: The Nigerian Experience’ in Ethnic Federalism: The Ethiopian Experience in Comparative Perspective, D. Turton (ed.), Oxford: James Currey, 2006, pp. 75–76.
  • Worldometers, Population in 2017, Indonesia: (accessed 10.10.2017).
  • Indonesia’s nominal GDP in 2016 was approx. $932 billion, making the country the 5th largest economy in Asia and the 16th in the world. See International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database, Washington DC, October 2017: (accessed 29.11.2017).
  • A. Ananta, E. N. Arifin, M. S. Hasbullah, N. B. Handayani, and A. Pramono, Changing Ethnic Composition: Indonesia, 2000–2010, 2013:
  • (accessed 11.10.2017).
  • Index Mundi, Indonesia Demographics Profile 2017: (accessed 12.10.2017).
  • D.L. Horowitz, Constitutional Change and Democracy in Indonesia, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013, p. 58.
  • Horowitz (ibid., p. 59) notes that during the presidency of Suharto (who governed uninterruptedly from 1967 to 1998), the Javanese not only enjoyed key influence on the central government, but through the intermediary of retired Indonesian army officers, made up “the core of political control” beyond Java, on the so-called external Indonesian islands.
  • The changes began with the resignation of president Suharto following a wave of popular protests in 1998, and with the first multi-party elections in 1999.
  • The Indonesian, western portion of New Guinea, where the provinces of Papua and West Papua are located, used to be called Irian Barat (West Irian), Irian Jaya, and subsequently Papua.
  • For more on separatisms and autonomy in Aceh and Indonesian Papua, see R. McGibbon, Secessionist Challenges in Aceh and Papua: Is Special Autonomy the Solution?, Washington DC: East-West Center, 2004.
  • Krzysztof Trzciński, ‘The Consociational Addition to Indonesia’s Centripetalism as a Tactic of the Central Authorities: The Case of Papua’, Hemispheres, Vol. 31, No. 4, 2016, pp. 5–20:
  • (accessed 18.10.2017).
  • The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria of 29 May 1999:
  • (accessed 18.10.2017).
  • The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria of 1 October 1979 (enacted on 21 September 1978): (accessed 18.10.2017).
  • R. Benjamin, ‘Introduction’ in Political Parties in Conflict-Prone Societies: Regulation, Engineering, and Democratic Development, R. Benjamin and P. Nordlund (eds), Tokyo-New York-Paris: United Nations University Press, 2008, p. 14. The so-called Second Republic of Nigeria fell with the military coup of 1983. Later attempts to establish the so-called Third Republic in 1993 ended in failure. The Constitution of the Third Republic from 1993 never fully came into force, and the military stayed in power in Nigeria from 1983 to 1999.
  • For more on this subject, see the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria of 1 October 1979…, art. 84–121.
  • The Constitution of the Republic of Indonesia from 18 August 1945 (with later amendments):
  • (accessed 20.10.2017).
  • For more on the subject of these and other amendments to the Constitution of the Republic of Indonesia from 18 August 1945, see E. Schneier, The Role of Constitution-Building Processes in Democratization: Case Study – Indonesia: The Constitution-Building Process in Post-Suharto Indonesia, Stockholm: International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, 2005:
  • (accessed 22.10.2017); A. Ellis, Constitutional Reform in Indonesia: A Retrospective, March 2005:
  • (accessed 22.10.2017).
  • Horowitz provides a synthesis of the events leading to the introduction of the requirement in question in Indonesia’s presidential elections in Constitutional Change and Democracy…, pp. 108–122.
  • Discussions in Indonesia about the creation of additional provinces have been under way for several years, however. See, for example, S.R. Max, ‘How many provinces does Indonesia need?’, The Jakarta Post, April 20, 2012: (accessed 24.10.2017).
  • Specific arrangements in this regard exist in the United States, but their character is different from that of the requirement in question.
  • Horowitz, Constitutional Change and Democracy…, p. 207.
  • Ibid., p. 209.
  • For more on this subject, see Krzysztof Trzciński, ‘„Demokracja o niskiej jakości” (“low-quality democracy”) – zasadność stosowania pojęcia i Horowitzowska egzemplifikacja na przykładzie Indonezji’ [‘”Low-Quality Democracy” – The Validity of the Concept and the Horowitz’s Exemplification: The Case of Indonesia’], Studia Polityczne [Political Studies], Vol. 44, No. 4, 2016, pp. 167–189.
  • 19 April 2003 Presidential Election, 21 April 2007 Presidential Election & 16 April 2011 Presidential Election, in African Elections Database, Elections in Nigeria:
  • (accessed 26.10.2017);
  • (accessed 26.10.2017);
  • (accessed 26.10.2017);
  • (accessed 26.10.2017).
  • ‘Nigeria: Setting an Example?’ in The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index 2015: Democracy in an Age of Anxiety: (accessed 28.10.2017).
  • 11 August 1979 Presidential Election & 6 August 1983 Presidential Election, in African Elections Database, Elections in Nigeria: (accessed 26.10.2017); (accessed 26.10.2017); (accessed 26.10.2017).
  • 12 June 1993 Presidential Election & 27 February 1999 Presidential Election, in African Elections Database, Elections in Nigeria: (accessed 26.10.2017); (accessed 26.10.2017).
  • The Carter Center 2004 Indonesia Election Report, June 2005:
  • (accessed 28.10.2017).
  • A. Ufen, ‘The Legislative and Presidential Elections in Indonesia in 2009’, Electoral Studies: An International Journal, No. 2, 2010, p. 284.
  • International Foundation for Electoral Systems, Final Results of the 2014 Presidential Election in Indonesia Announced, July 22, 2014: (accessed 28.10.2017).
  • For the example of Kenya, see The Results of the 2013 Kenyan Presidential Election, African Studies Center Leiden: (accessed 28.10.2017).
  • The opposite situation takes place in Kenya, where the requirement in question is also applied.
  • For more on this subject, see Krzysztof Trzciński, ‘How Theoretically Opposite Models of Interethnic Power-Sharing Can Complement Each Other and Contribute to Political Stabilization: The Case of Nigeria’, Politeja, Vol. 42, No. 3, 2016, pp. 53–73:
  • (accessed 28.10.2017).
  • For more on this subject, see Krzysztof Trzciński, ‘Hybrid Power-Sharing in Indonesia’, Polish Political Science Yearbook, Vol. 46, No. 1, 2017, pp. 168–185: (accessed 28.10.2017).
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