Presidential Election Case

From the very beginning, MK’s librarian, Mr. Hanin, has taken an interest in my educational experience at the court. He has introduced me to a number of people in a variety of departments within MK, including several researchers. One of the researchers, Mr. Helmi, sought me out to discuss several non-election dispute cases that the court is currently dealing with. I was most interested in a case involving the upcoming presidential election because it’s so relevant and time sensitive.

The presidential election (which is held every 5 years) will take place on July 9, 2014 (only a few weeks away!). This year, the candidates are Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and Prabowo Subianto. Because there are only two candidates, the constitutional provision dealing with the election process has been called into question. Specifically, Article 159 of Law No. 42 of 2008 states that when the candidates for president and vice president receive at least 50% of the total number of votes in Indonesia AND at least 20% of the votes in more than half of the provinces, they will be declared as elected. If both of these terms are not met, the two candidates who have received the highest number of votes will participate in a second round of elections in which the person with the highest number of votes will win, regardless of the distribution of the votes between the provinces. Because of this provision, it is possible that one candidate will win the popular vote the first time, and the other candidate will win the popular vote the second time; therefore, MK is attempting to decide whether an election with only two candidates is treated in the same way as an election with a greater number of candidates.

I attended the plenary session with Mr. Helmi. There were several petitioners including Perkumpulan untuk Pemilu dan Demokrasi (Association for Democratic Elections—Perludem for short) and Forum Pengacara Konstitusi (Constitutional Lawyers Forum). Almost everyone present seemed to agree that the Court should interpret the law in such a way that it would not apply to an election in which there are only two pairs of candidates. The petitioners and the expert witnesses had three primary arguments: (1) Voters may become apathetic in the second round; (2) Two rounds with different outcomes could lead to political instability; and (3) Two election rounds is a waste of financial resources.

The coolest part of the plenary session is when Prof. Saldi spoke from Andalas University via video conference. I had no idea that he was one of the expert witnesses, so it was quite a surprise when he popped up on the TV screens in the courtroom.