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Win-win verdict for Indonesia

Publication Date : 24-01-2014


Democracy in Indonesia took a new twist on Thursday when the Constitutional Court ruled that legislative and presidential elections would be held simultaneously. However, this will not happen until 2019, instead of this year as some people had expected.

Besides the controversy over the reason for delaying the reading of the verdict for eight months, the court ruling keeps the existing playing field and schedules for this year’s legislative and presidential elections unchanged. No wonder a presidential aspirant expressed his disappointment with the verdict, saying the upcoming race for the presidency would remain a stranglehold of the major parties — the Golkar Party, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) and the Democratic Party (PD), which stand a great chance of meeting the presidential threshold, of winning 25 per cent of the popular vote or securing 20 per cent of the House of Representatives seats in the April 9 legislative election, to be eligible to nominate candidates in the presidential election three months later.

It seems that the Constitutional Court played it safe, considering waning public confidence in it following the arrest of its then chief justice Akil Mochtar for bribery in October. All but one Constitutional Court justice agreed that holding simultaneous elections this year would trigger “political noise” that would be detrimental to the ongoing preparations for the elections.

Pressure had mounted on the court to not accept the judicial review filed by University of Indonesia political communication expert Effendi Gazali and company, grouped under the Coalition of Civil Society for Simultaneous Elections, considering the widespread consequences if the panel of justices decided otherwise.

Understandably, the impacts of simultaneous elections, if held this year, without enough time for preparation would be beyond imagination. Not only could the political event, dubbed a democratic fiesta, turn into chaos, but the aim of holding free, fair and transparent elections would be difficult to realize and eventually our hard-won democracy would be at stake. The public would have lambasted the court for such a blunder.

The coalition said it had challenged holding separate elections simply for the sake of efficiency. Since the inception of direct presidential elections in 2004, taxpayers have paid trillions of rupiah for the event on top of the trillions it costs to hold legislative elections every five years.

The verdict, therefore, appears to be a compromise to appease both the plaintiffs and the political parties that have all geared up for both the legislative and presidential elections.

However, it is the penchant for a win-win ruling that pleases everybody that is of concern as it is prone to political influence, if not intervention. As reported in the media, the panel of justices made a decision on Effendi’s judicial review motion in May last year, but deliberately postponed its reading until Thursday.

It is imperative that the court clarifies the matter for the sake of its reputation.


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