A reform that was suggested to be made to the electoral system of Indonesia, which rights campaigners had criticized as an attack on democracy, was rejected by the country’s constitutional court on Thursday, in advance of a vote that would take place next year.
Fears of a return to Indonesia’s authoritarian past were heightened as a result of the legal challenge, as was the possibility of a postponement to the presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for February. Such a delay would have given President Joko Widodo the opportunity to prolong his authority beyond the two-term limit.
A member of the Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), which is currently in power, petitioned the court to implement a closed-ballot voting system in the world’s third-largest democracy. Under this system, only party leaders would have been able to select members of parliament. The court denied this request.
During a hearing held on Thursday, the chief justice of the Constitutional Court, Anwar Usman, stated that he “rejects the plaintiffs’ petition in its entirety.”
In the event that the case had been decided differently, the decision would have been final and non-appealable.
After the demise of the dictatorial former president Suharto in the late 1990s, Indonesia continued to employ the closed-ballot system that had been in place throughout his administration.
In Indonesia, elections have been held under an open-ballot system since 2008, which allows voters to cast ballots directly for certain politicians.
Because Chief Justice Usman is Widodo’s brother-in-law, some people have questioned the court’s ability to operate independently.
However, the leader of Indonesia has denied on several occasions that there have been any attempts to extend his reign beyond the allowed 10 years.
Before Thursday’s verdict, the eight other parties in parliament had rejected the amendment that was supported by the PDI-P.
The petition, which was presented to the court by six plaintiffs, one of whom was a member of the PDI-P, said that the open system had resulted in a race between candidates that was driven by money and contained charges of vote-buying.
Experts in human rights criticized the plan and stated that a verdict in favor of the move would have marked a terrible day for democracy in the economy of the region that is the most populous in Southeast Asia.
Before the verdict was handed down, Usman Hamid, the director of Amnesty International Indonesia, stated to AFP that “It is a continuing attack on democracy.”
“There has been an assault on Indonesia’s civic space. There have been assaults on members of the Indonesian political opposition. And now the integrity of the elections.”
As a result of the judgment made on Thursday, however, voters will continue to cast their ballots for specific candidates in future elections rather than parties that appear on the ballot.
During the most recent election, which took place in 2019, more than 150 million people in Indonesia cast their votes among more than 200,000 candidates.