Indonesian Judicial Body to Review Controversial Election Ruling

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ASEAN Beat | Politics | Southeast Asia

Indonesian Judicial Body to Review Controversial Election Ruling

Last week, a district court ordered the country’s election commission to cease all election preparations, potentially delaying next year’s polls.

Indonesian Judicial Body to Review Controversial Election Ruling
Credit: Depositphotos

On Friday, Indonesia’s Judicial Commission announced that it would summon judges from a district court to explain a controversial ruling that ordered a delay in the country’s 2024 election.

A day earlier, Indonesian politics was thrown into a degree of confusion by a bizarre ruling from the Central Jakarta district court, which said the election commission must cease all ongoing processes for the strangely specific period of two years, four months, and seven days.

Miko Ginting, a spokesperson for Indonesia’s Judicial Commission, said that “if there are strong suspicions that there was a foul play from the part of the judges, then the commission will probe said judges.” The country’s General Elections Commission (Komisi Pemilihan Umum, or KPU) has also pledged to appeal the ruling, which would push back national polls until 2025 at the earliest. “Any laws regulating election processes and schedules are still legal and legally binding,” Hasyim Asy’ari, the KPU’s head, told a news conference, adding it would continue to work despite the ruling.

The district court’s decision came in response to a lawsuit filed by the Just Prosperous People’s Party, known short as the Prima Party, which was formed in 2020, after its application to contest elections was rejected last year. The party’s leadership described the ruling as “a victory for the common people.” However, the exact grounds for the ruling, and the reasoning for halting all election preparations, remain vague, in large part because the full ruling has not been made public.

However, according to Reuters, which obtained a copy of the ruling, judges deemed that after the Prima Party’s registration was rejected, the KPU unfairly denied it the chance to submit the required documents. This was due partly to glitches with KPU’s software. The ruling quoted by Reuters also stated that an administrative court had declined to take up the case, and that the district court’s decision was intended to “restore justice and prevent as early as possible other events of [KPU] errors, inaccuracies, unprofessionalism.”

A number of institutions and government bodies, including Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal, and Security Affairs Mahfud MD and President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP), have also denounced the ruling, saying that a district court has no authority to decide elections pertaining to national elections. Titi Anggraini of the election watchdog Perludem said the court had acted beyond its authority, calling the verdict “weird, awkward and suspicious,” according to a report by the Australian Associated Press.

The ruling has thus seemingly initiated what could be a lengthy legal fight over the court’s jurisdiction, just as Indonesia’s political parties are gearing up for the February 2024 election. It has also resurrected debates over a possible extension of Jokowi’s tenure beyond the next election. Last year, a number of senior politicians and cabinet members began voicing support for the idea of extending Jokowi’s tenure beyond the end of his second term, either by delaying the 2024 election or amending the Constitution to allow him to run for a third term. The reason for this is that a large proportion of the Indonesian political spectrum – seven of the nine political parties in parliament – is part of Jokowi’s PDIP-led government, and that it would suit many of them quite nicely for the status quo to be extended in some fashion.

However, Jokowi has disavowed any intention to serve beyond the two-term constitutional limit, as has the PDIP. Citing a recent Constitutional Court ruling, the party said that there could be no extension beyond a president’s maximum two terms in office, which would effectively happen if an election were delayed. “PDIP thinks the court’s ruling must be annulled,” its secretary general, Hasto Kristiyanto, said in a statement, Reuters reported. “Any effort to delay the election is unconstitutional.”