Indonesian lawmakers passed a stricter government-proposed regulation on mass organizations into law on Tuesday (24/10). (Antara Photo/M. Agung Rajasa)

House Approves Election Bill That Will Test Indonesia's Democracy


JULY 21, 2017

Jakarta. After a long plenary meeting, the House of Representatives on Thursday evening (20/07) finally approved an overdue election bill, which will serve as a legal basis for the 2019 presidential vote.

The bill, now ready to be signed into law by President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, requires presidential candidates to either obtain support from a political party or a coalition of political parties with 20 percent of the seats in the legislature as of the 2014 poll, or to be supported by a political party or a coalition of political parties that won 25 percent of the vote in the election.

The meeting was colored by walkouts, as lawmakers of the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), the National Mandate Party (PAN), the Democratic Party (PD) and the the Great Indonesia Movement (Gerindra) Party opposed the thresholds that block the chances of candidates who are not endorsed by major parties.

The House's decision to keep the status quo is seen as a victory for the ruling coalition – the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), the Golkar Party, the National Democratic Party (NasDem), the National Development Party (PPP) and the People's Conscience Party (Hanura) – as small parties will have no chance to nominate their candidates in the next presidential election.

Deputy Speaker Fadli Zon of Gerindra, who led the first part of the plenary also left the room and the meeting was continued by Speaker Setya Novanto.

In the next general election, scheduled for April 17, 2019, Indonesians will for the first time choose the legislature and the executive on the same day.

"Golkar wants the improvement of the democratic system," Golkar lawmaker Robert Joppy Kardinal, who sits in House Commission IV, which oversees forestry, fisheries and agricultural affairs, told reporters in Jakarta on Friday.

He said the threshold is not aimed at limiting the right to stand for election.

"When we elect mayors, there are thresholds too, how come should not have them for [electing] the president?" he said.

The thresholds, he argued are needed to limit the number of candidates so that members of the public will not be confused with regard to their preferences. This, he said, will also prevent the possibility of particular interest groups being represented by candidates.

Vice President Jusuf Kalla approved the decision to keep the thresholds, saying consistency should be kept in regulations.

(JG Ilustration) (JG Ilustration)

Not Fair Play?

While it is a happy moment for the ruling coalition, the opposition is not amused.

Didi Irawadi Syamsuddin of the Democratic Party said on its official website that using the results from the 2014 vote is "irrational" and not relevant to the 2019 presidential vote.

"The requirement to obtain the support from political parties with 20 percent of the seats, based on the 2014 election results is irrelevant ... The political landscape has surely changed since the past five years," he said.

Didi also questioned the ruling coalition's determination to keep the threshold system.

"Unfortunately, President Jokowi supported this threshold [requirement]," he said, adding "so don't blame others if many become suspicious. Perhaps it's a way to block presidential candidates from small parties ... or the incumbent president fears to fight prospective candidates?" he said.

According to Didi, as the Constitutional Court ruled in 2013 that the 20019 elections should be simultaneous, automatically the threshold for presidential candidate pairs should be removed.

"If this [the current bill] is implemented, then it may violate the Constitutional Court's ruling," he said.

Yusril Ihza Mahendra, the founder of the Crescent Star Party (PBB), which failed to win seats in the 2014 election, said his party will request judicial review of the new law, as the threshold system is unfair for small parties like PBB.

KPU Ready

Meanwhile, the General Elections Commission (KPU) said when the bill is passed, the KPK will be bound to hold the election in accordance with the law.

"This will be the basis for us to hold the 2019 simultaneous election. Most importantly, the bill has been approved, the outcome is part of the political process," KPU commissioner Viryan said.