Indonesian appeals court overturns verdict delaying 2024 polls

Arie Firdaus
Indonesian appeals court overturns verdict delaying 2024 polls A worker carries election materials as he prepares ballot boxes before their distribution to polling stations, at a warehouse in Jakarta, April 15, 2019.
Willy Kurniawan/Reuters/File Photo

An Indonesian appeals court on Tuesday overturned a lower court’s controversial ruling that ordered the elections authority to postpone next year’s presidential polls and other votes.

The Jakarta High Court’s decision in favor of the General Election Commission (KPU) handed a victory to democracy advocates who worried that term limits on the presidency could be jeopardized in the country with a long past history of authoritarian rule. 

The commission had appealed the verdict of the Central Jakarta District Court. Last month, the lower court ruled for the plaintiff in a lawsuit brought by a minor political party, Prima, which had failed to pass the verification process to participate in the elections.

The district court had ordered the KPU to postpone preparations for the elections for more than two years – effective immediately – and restart the verification process from scratch. If enforced, the ruling could delay the elections by more than a year.

“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,” the head of the three-judge panel, Sugeng Riyono, said as the high court issued its decision.

Prima can still appeal to the Supreme Court.

The initial verdict caused a backlash from constitutional law experts, political parties, and civil society groups, who argued that it violated the constitution and exceeded the court’s authority.

The constitution stipulates that the president and vice president can only serve two five-year terms. That means that incumbent President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, who was re-elected in 2019, will have to step down in 2024.

Any delay in the elections would require a constitutional amendment, which is unlikely to happen given the lack of political consensus.

After Tuesday’s ruling, Indonesia’s top security minister urged the election commission to keep its eye on ensuring that preparations for the 2024 general election be held on time, as he congratulated the polls body for the legal victory.

“Everyone must focus on keeping the February 14, 2024 election on schedule as it is in accordance with the law. Neither district nor high courts have jurisdiction over election issues,” said Mohammad Mahfud MD, the coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs.

He described the initial lawsuit as “frivolous.”

With more than 270 million people, Indonesia is the world’s third most populous democracy and the largest Muslim-majority country, but after its independence from Dutch colonial rule in 1949, dictators ruled it for decades until President Suharto fell from power in 1998.

The 2024 general election is expected to be a tight race among several potential presidential candidates, including Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto, former Jakarta Gov. Anies Baswedan and Central Java Gov. Ganjar Pranowo.

The elections will also determine the composition of the national parliament and local legislatures across the archipelago.

According to the current schedule, the elections will be held on Feb. 14, 2024, with campaigning starting on Nov. 28 this year.

Bivitri Susanti, a constitutional law expert at the Jentera Indonesian Law School (STHI), praised Tuesday’s decision.

The lower court had no jurisdiction over the case, which should have been handled by the State Administrative Court (PTUN), she said.

“This is a good correction because it is based on the correct legal authority,” she told BenarNews. “The KPU is a state institution that falls under administrative law, not civil law.”


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