Jakarta – The House of Representatives is mulling over changing the current open-list proportional representation electoral system and raising the 4 percent minimum parliamentary threshold in a proposed revision to Law No. 7/2017 on general elections.
Article 206 of the draft bill, a copy of which was obtained by The Jakarta Post, the House proposes to change the current system that allows legislative candidates with the most votes to automatically secure seats after the election into a closed-list system that will grant political parties the power to decide which candidates would represent them in legislative bodies.
The House also seeks to increase the parliamentary threshold from 4 to 7 percent as stipulated in Article 217 of the draft bill dated May 6.
Saan Mustopa, deputy chairman of the House Commission II overseeing home affairs, told the Post on Friday that nine political party factions at the legislative body were still divided over the draft, saying only the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) and the Golkar Party had so far agreed to adopt the closed-list system.
"This draft is still very open for changes as factions are still divided over it. Each faction is currently in discussion and we will deliberate the draft again on Monday. After that, we will send the draft to the Baleg [House Legislative Body]," the NasDem Party politician said.
The PDI-P and Golkar – the two largest political parties at the House and largest supporters of the government – have been rallying support for the revision since the beginning of 2020 as both parties argue that the closed-list system, which was applied during the 1999 and 2004 legislative elections, would reduce vote-buying and the fierce competition among candidates within a party or against those from other parties.
All factions were also still divided over raising the parliamentary threshold, with only the NasDem Party and Golkar agree on the 7 percent threshold, Saan said. "The PDI-P, meanwhile, still wants to maintain the current threshold, as well as the others."
Therefore, he said, the draft might be changed to add several options. For instance, the provision on the electoral system might include a list of factions that agree with the open-list system and those that support the closed-list system. The draft might also include some parliamentary threshold options.
All factions, however, unanimously agreed to maintain simultaneous general elections for the national legislature, regional representatives and the presidency.
"The 2024 elections will still have the same with five ballot boxes [at the polls]," he said, adding that the House was still looking at the possibility to separate legislative and executive elections between the central and regional administration as proposed by some experts after the 2019 general elections.
Experts, however, have opposed the idea of reinstating the closed-list system and increasing the parliamentary threshold, saying they were not a solution to the issues surrounding elections in Indonesia and would distort the people's sovereignty.
Edward Aspinall, a professor at the Australian National University who has researched vote-buying across Southeast Asia, said there were also consequences of ditching the current system, saying that it might trigger corrupt practices within the party with candidates attempting to purchase positions from party leaders.
He went on to say that the country should instead consider a mixed-list system that would also have a proportional element.
Titi Anggraini of election watchdog the Association for Elections and Democracy (Perludem) said that a higher parliamentary threshold would not necessarily increase the number of legitimate votes and would instead increase the chance for wasted votes.
"More parties would fail to meet the legislative threshold and this would result in political dissatisfaction," she said.
Lawmakers are set to finish deliberating the bill in 2021, well before the next general elections in 2024. "Hopefully, we will have enough time to finish it this year," said Zulfikar Arse Sadikin of the Golkar Party.
Saan echoed Zulkifar's sentiment, saying that he would like to see the bill resolved in early 2021 "so that we will have more time to raise awareness about it among public and in case individuals or groups want to challenge it when it passes into law".