Regency (Indonesia)

A regency (Indonesian: kabupaten), sometimes incorrectly referred to as a district[lower-alpha 1], is an administrative division of Indonesia, directly under a province and on the same level with city (kota). Regencies is divided into districts (Kecamatan, Distrik in Papua region,[1][2] or Kapanewon in the Special Region of Yogyakarta).

The English name "regency" comes from the Dutch colonial period, when regencies were ruled by bupati (or regents) and were known as regentschap in Dutch (kabupaten in Javanese and subsequently Indonesian).[3] Bupati had been regional lords under the precolonial monarchies of Java.[4] When the Dutch abolished or curtailed those monarchies, the bupati were left as the most senior indigenous authority.[5][6][7] They were not, strictly speaking, "native rulers" because the Dutch claimed full sovereignty over their territory, but in practice, they had many of the attributes of petty kings, including elaborate regalia and palaces and a high degree of impunity.[8][9]


Portrait of a Javanese regent in gala uniform (circa 1900).

The Indonesian title of bupati is originally a loanword from Sanskrit, a shortening of the Sanskrit title bhumi-pati (bhumi भूमि '(of the) land' + pati पति 'lord', hence bhumi-pati 'lord of the land').[10] In Indonesia, bupati was originally used as a Javanese title for regional rulers in precolonial kingdoms, its first recorded usage being in the Telaga Batu inscription, which dates to the Srivijaya period, in which bhupati is mentioned among the titles of local rulers who paid allegiance to Sriwijaya's kings.[11][10] Related titles which were also used in precolonial Indonesia are adipati ('duke') and senapati ('lord of the army' or 'general'). As we know today, the district has de facto existed since Januari 28, 1892, in the 19th century AD, when the Dutch East Indies government established the Landarchief. On January 29, 1892, the first landarchivasis was confirmed, Mr. Jacob Anne van der Chijs which lasted until 1905. Juridically, the existence of Indonesia archival institutions began with the proclamation of Indonesia independence on August 17, 1945.[12]

Pre-independence period

Sosroningrat, Regent of Jepara 1881–1905

Regencies in Java territorial units were grouped together into residencies headed by exclusively European residents. This term hinted that the residents had a quasi-diplomatic status in relation to the bupati (and indeed they had such a relationship with the native rulers who continued to prevail in much of Indonesia outside Java), but in practice the bupati had to follow Dutch instructions on any matter of concern to the colonial authorities. Like the current system of government in Indonesia, the system of historical times is still in effect.[13][14][15]

The relationship between those sides was ambivalent: while legal and military power rested with the Dutch government (or, for a long time, with the Dutch East India Company under a Governor General in Batavia on Java, the regents held higher protocollary rank than the assistant-resident who supposedly advised them and held day-to-day sway over the population.[16] After the independence of Indonesia in 1945, the terms bupati and kabupaten were applied throughout the archipelago to the administrative unit below the residency (karesidenan).

In the Telaga Batu inscription, which was found in the village near Palembang and contains a worship of the king of Srivijaya, there may be the word bhupati. The inscription is estimated to be from the end af the 7th century AD, Indonesia inscription expert Johannes Gijsbertus de Casparis translated bhupati with the term head (hoofd in Dutch), the word bhupati is also found in the Ligor inscription, which was found in the Nakhon Si Thammarat province of Thailand. In the 17th century, Europeans called the area Ligor. this inscription was identified in 775 AD 7th century AD, the term bhupati was used to refer to the king of Srivijaya Hujunglangit in the 9th century AD[17][18][19]

Recent history

Since the start of the Reform Era in 1998 a remarkable secession of regency governments has arisen in Indonesia. The process has become known as pemekaran (division). Following the surge of support for decentralisation across Indonesia which occurred following the fall of Soeharto in 1998, key new decentralisation laws were passed in 1999. Subsequently, there was a jump in the number of regencies (and cities) from around 300 at the end of 1998 to 514 in 2014 sixteen years later. This secession of new regencies, welcome at first, has become increasingly controversial within Indonesia because the administrative fragmentation has proved costly and has not brought the hoped-for benefits.

Senior levels of the administration expressed a general feeling that the process of pemekaran needed to be slowed (or even stopped for the time being), although local politicians at various levels across government in Indonesia continue to express strong populist support for the continued creation of new regencies.[20] Indeed, no further regencies or independent cities have been created since 2014. However, a paper on fiscal decentralization and regional income inequality in 2019 argued that that fiscal decentralization reduces regional income inequality.[21]

Since 1998, a large portion of governance have been delegated from central government in Jakarta to local regencies, with regencies now playing important role in providing services to Indonesian people.[22] Direct elections for regents and mayors began in 2005, with the leaders previously being elected by local legislative councils.[23]


As of 2020, there are 416 regencies in Indonesia, and 98 cities. 120 of these are in Sumatra, 85 are in Java, 37 are in Nusa Tenggara, 47 are in Kalimantan, 70 are in Sulawesi, 17 are in Maluku, and 40 in Papua.[24]

See also


  1. Example of this incorrect usage is in machine translation services such as Google Translate. "District" to refer to regencies is incorrect as "districts" legally refers to what is called kecamatan or distrik in Indonesian
  1. "Undang-Undang Republik Indonesia Nomor 21 Tahun 2001 tentang Otonomi Khusus Bagi Provinsi Papua". Article 1.k, Law No. 21 of 2001 (in Indonesian).
  2. "Undang-Undang Republik Indonesia Nomor 23 Tahun 2014 tentang Pemerintah Daerah". Article 1.24, Law No. 23 of 2014 (in Indonesian).
  3. Indonesia Departemen Dalam Negeri (1985). Departemen Dalam Negeri, tugas, fungsi dan peranannya dalam pemerintah di Daerah (in Indonesian). Departemen Dalam Negeri.
  4. Koesoemahatmadja, Djenal Hoesen (1978). Perkembangan fungsi dan struktur pamong praja ditinjau dari segi sejarah (in Indonesian). Alumni.
  5. Suwarno, P. J. (1989). Sejarah birokrasi pemerintahan Indonesia dahulu dan sekarang (in Indonesian). Penerbitan Universitas Atma Jaya Yogyakarta. ISBN 9789798109010.
  6. Raharjo, Supratikno; Munandar, Agus Aris (1 January 1998). Sejarah Kebudayaan Bali: Kajian Perkembangan dan Dampak Pariwisata (in Indonesian). Direktorat Jenderal Kebudayaan.
  7. Poesponegoro, Marwati Djoened (1975). Sejarah nasional Indonesia: Jaman kebangkitan nasional dan masa akhir Hindia Belanda (in Indonesian). Departemen Pendidikan dan Kebudayaan.
  8. Lubis, Nina Herlina (2000). Tradisi dan transformasi sejarah Sunda (in Indonesian). Humaniora Utama Press. ISBN 9789799231338.
  9. Koesoemahatmadja, Djenal Hoesen (1978). Perkembangan fungsi dan struktur pamong praja ditinjau dari segi sejarah (in Indonesian). Alumni.
  10. Setiawan, Irfan (29 June 2018). Handbook Pemerintahan Daerah (in Indonesian). Wahana Resolusi. ISBN 9786025775185.
  11. Casparis, J.G., (1956), Prasasti Indonesia II: Selected Inscriptions from the 7th to the 9th Century A.D., Dinas Purbakala Republik Indonesia, Bandung: Masa Baru.
  12. "Sejarah".
  13. Pakan, Djon (2002). Kembali ke jatidiri bangsa: Sumpah Pemuda Indonesia, Proklamasi 17 Agustus 1945, Pancasila, dan Undang-Undang Dasar 1945 : sejarah, filsafat, dan refleksi pemikiran kebangsaan (in Indonesian). Millennium Publisher. ISBN 9789799437525.
  14. Adiwilaga, Rendy (1 May 2018). Kepemimpinan Pemerintahan Indonesia: Teori dan Prakteknya (in Indonesian). ISBN 9786024751227.
  15. Pusat Studi Sunda (2004). Bupati di Priangan: dan kajian lainnya mengenai budaya Sunda (in Indonesian). Pusat Studi Sunda.
  16. Hatmadji, Tri. Ragam Pusaka Budaya Banten (in Indonesian). Direktorat Jenderal Kebudayaan. ISBN 9789799932402.
  17. "Prasasti Ligor, Jejak Historis Raja Jawa di Semenanjung Melayu pada Abad Kedelapan Masehi". 30 December 2020.
  18. "Kerajaan Sriwijaya: Letak, Raja-raja, Masa Kejayaan, dan Peninggalan Halaman all". 30 May 2021.
  19. "Prasasti Hujung Langit -". 7 February 2022.
  20. Sitomorang, Yosua (9 June 2010). "Strategic Asia: When it comes to Regional Autonomy in Indonesia, Breaking Up Should be Harder to Do'". The Jakarta Globe. Archived from the original on 28 September 2012.
  21. Siburian, Matondang Elsa (2020). "Fiscal decentralization and regional income inequality: evidence from Indonesia". Applied Economics Letters. 27 (17): 1383–6. doi:10.1080/13504851.2019.1683139.
  22. Hill, Hal (18 September 2013), Power shift in Indonesia, The Australian
  23. Kwok, Yenni (26 September 2014). "Indonesia Scraps Regional Elections". Time. Retrieved 4 May 2018. pushed to have district chiefs, mayors and governors indirectly voted in by local parliaments, as they were in 2005.
  24. Putri, Arum Sutrisni (8 January 2020). "Jumlah Kabupaten dan Provinsi di Indonesia". (in Indonesian). Retrieved 14 July 2021.
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