Jakarta. The government has rejected suggestions by some lawmakers that the requirements set for independent candidates participating in regional elections should be toughened, in what many suspect is an attempt to block the reelection of the popular incumbent governor of Jakarta, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama.
The Constitutional Court on Sep. 30 revised a provision in the Law on Regional Elections that previously required independent candidates to gather the support of at least 7.5 percent of the population in a given electoral area before they were qualified to run.
The court changed the requirement to 7.5 percent of eligible voters, arguing that population figures are merely estimates that can change from time to time.
However, some members of the House of Representatives are seeking to double this figure. In response, many commentators have criticized the suggestion, pointing out that the proposal was made just days after Basuki announced that he would rather run as an independent than lobby for support from political parties, which he accused of setting too many terms and conditions in exchange for their backing.
Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung said on Wednesday (16/03) that President Joko Widodo's administration feels the current requirements for independent candidates "are ideal."
The stance was discussed during a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Pramono said. The government "welcomes any suggestion for changes [in the law], but we mustn't let these changes be directed to foil a particular candidate's nomination," he said, without elaborating.
House Speaker Ade Komaruddin agreed that some provisions in the Regional Elections Law needed to be changed but argued that those related to independent candidates were not among them.
Ade said on Thursday that there are more pressing matters to discuss than the requirements for independent candidates, adding that the current law failed to preempt several issues that arose during the 2015 simultaneous regional elections, such as single-candidate elections and disputes lodged by disqualified candidates.
The General Elections Commission (KPU) had a very different suggestion, saying that the requirement for independent candidates should instead be cut in half.
"We have provided the House with our inputs and we argue that independent candidates' requirements should be lowered. But it looks like [the House] wants the opposite," KPU commissioner Hadar Nafis Gumay said during a consultation hearing staged by House Commission II, which oversees politics and home affairs.
Hadar said that when the House enacted the current law last year, the KPU wanted a qualification requirement of between 3.5 percent and 6 percent support by eligible voters for an independent candidate.
Indonesia is set to stage simultaneous regional elections next year, including the Jakarta gubernatorial election.
Writing and editing by Nivell Rayda