An Indonesian appeals court has overturned a contentious lower court ruling that ordered the postponement of next year’s election, restoring stability and predictability to the country’s politics in the run-up to the pivotal poll.
On March 2, the Central Jakarta district court ruled that the General Elections Commission (KPU) must cease all ongoing electoral processes for the curiously specific period of two years, four months, and seven days.
Indonesian politics was thrown into confusion by the ruling, which was immediately appealed by the KPU. It came in response to a lawsuit filed by the newly formed Just Prosperous People’s Party, or Prima Party, after its application to contest elections was rejected last year. The ruling would have disrupted all election preparations and delayed the February 14, 2024, poll until the following year.
In rejecting the ruling on Tuesday, the Jakarta High Court accepted the KPU’s argument that the district court had no authority to try election disputes. “We hereby grant the defendant’s appeal and declare that Central Jakarta District Court is not competent to judge the case and that the plaintiff’s lawsuit cannot be accepted,” Sugeng Riyono, the head of the three-judge appeals panel, said in announcing the decision.
The Prima Party, which had argued there were flaws in the KPU’s registration process and software, had yet to decide if it would appeal to the Supreme Court, its chairman Agus Jabo Priyono was quoted as saying.
After Tuesday’s ruling, Mohammad Mahfud MD, the coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs, described the lawsuit as “frivolous” and urged the election commission to ensure that preparations for the 2024 election be held on time. “Everyone must focus on keeping the February 14, 2024 election on schedule as it is in accordance with the law,” he said. “Neither district nor high courts have jurisdiction over election issues.”
The strange ruling, which was immediately questioned by legal experts, civil society groups, and politicians alike, was always likely to be overturned, but it will nonetheless come as a relief to the KPU as it prepares for the largest election in the country’s history. Indonesian elections are always logistically complex, given the country’s large population and dispersed archipelagic geography. On top of that, for the first time ever, in 2024, Indonesian voters will select the president, governors, mayors, regents, senators, and legislative councilors at all levels of government in the same year.
The ruling also prompted worries about a constitutional crisis involving the country’s presidential term limits. It followed suggestions from high-ranking members of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s ruling coalition that the popular leader’s tenure should be extended, either by postponing the 2024 election or by amending the constitution to allow him to run for the third five-year term.
That suggestion, which Jokowi himself has on several occasions dismissed, would now seem to have been definitively put to bed, stabilizing Indonesia’s political and constitutional landscape ahead of what looms as an important transitional election.