Court rules one voting day in 2019
Ina Parlina and Nurfika Osman
The Jakarta Post
The Constitutional Court ruled on Thursday that Indonesia would hold the presidential election and legislative election concurrently starting in 2019.
In a decision that some hoped would be applied to the 2014 elections, all but one justice agreed that different dates for the presidential and legislative election caused rampant horse-trading and inefficiency.
'We concluded that tactical and temporary political bargaining should be prevented during the presidential election, so that the coalitions formed [by political parties] are long-term and that integration among political parties occurs naturally,' Justice Ahmad Fadlil Sumadi said, reading out the verdict.
The court also ruled that the current election mechanism contradicted the Constitution, which considers the legislature and the executive equal in power. 'The checks-and-balances mechanism between the House of Representatives and the presidency doesn't work well.'
Because short-term coalitions form soon after the legislative election for the sole purpose of nominating a presidential candidate, the winner in the presidential election has to include members of those parties in his or her Cabinet, thus reducing the effectiveness of House oversight over the executive, it said.
The court was ruling on a judicial review filed by the Coalition of Civil Society for Simultaneous Elections challenging the Presidential Election Law. The coalition members include political communication expert Effendi Ghazali, anti-graft expert Saldi Isra, constitutional law expert Irman Putra Sidin, political analyst Hamdi Muluk and activist Ray Rangkuti.
The coalition filed the review on Jan. 10, 2013, to challenge Law No. 42/2008, which holds that the legislative and presidential elections be held at least three months apart.
The coalition said by holding the elections simultaneously, the General Elections Commission (KPU) could prevent horse-trading and transactional politics. A simultaneous election could also help improve voter turnout, the group argued.
On Dec. 13 last year, former law and human rights minister and senior leader of the Crescent Star Party (PBB) Yusril Ihza Mahendra submitted a request to challenge the Presidential Election Law, demanding the court scrap several articles in the law, including the stipulation that a party must gain 20 percent of the seats in the House or 25 percent of national legislative votes in order to nominate a presidential candidate.
In its Thursday verdict, the court turned down a request that the 2014 elections be held at the same time. The court said that a simultaneous election in 2014, would create 'chaos and legal uncertainty'.
'[We] suspended the implementation of the ruling until after the 2014 elections. In the future, [the mechanism] should follow the ruling and separate elections are no longer possible,' Justice Fadlil said.
Only one justice gave a dissenting opinion to the ruling. Justice Maria Farida said that a separate election was only a legal and technical matter.
'This is not a matter of constitutionality, but a matter of choice in legal policy,' she said.
Major political parties breathed a sigh of relief when the court announced its ruling. The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) and the Golkar Party had earlier expressed their concerns that concurrent elections in 2014 would put them in unknown political territory.
PDI-P lawmaker Trimedya Panjaitan lauded the ruling, saying that it would bring more efficiency to the country's political system.
'It appears that [the court] also shares the views of some political parties, including PDI-P, that if the ruling was effective for 2014, it would be a bit risky,' he said.
Golkar Party executive Sharif Cicip Sutarjo said his party had 'no objections to the ruling'.
Both parties have also expressed concerns over a possible conflict of interest in the handling of Yusril's petition, given that Constitutional Court Chief Justice Hamdan Zoelva is a former PBB lawmaker.
Hamdan said Thursday's verdict was actually reached on March 26, 2013, when Mahfud MD was still chief justice and Akil Mochtar was a justice.
Justice Arief Hidayat denied that the court played politics in deciding when the ruling would be released.
'The reason [for the delay] is that the court was being prudent.'
Separately, Mahfud said that the court took almost a year to issue the ruling because 'it handled a lot of regional election dispute cases'.
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