Heru Andriyanto, Jakarta – General Election Commission (KPU) Chairman Hasyim Asy'ari dismissed media reports alleging that he supports an indirect voting system as misleading, saying in an exclusive interview with BTV news channel on Friday night that his earlier statement has been taken out of context.
Indonesia, which will hold general elections in 2024, has since 2009 adopted a direct voting system in which voters have influence over legislative candidates put forward by political parties.
Under the system, known as the open-list proportional representation, any party puts a list of selected candidates on the ballot.
It's a departure from the previous system where voters solely voted for a party that in turn would exclusively decide the winning candidates proportional to the number of votes it won.
Hasyim said that he did make mention of the old system when he delivered the year-end report to university chancellors and political scholars at the KPU office a day earlier.
He said he told them to get "mentally prepared" for a possibility of a return to the old system because the open-list system is currently being challenged at the Constitutional Court.
"If the motion is accepted and the voting system is changed [back to the closed-list system], we all must be mentally prepared," he told BTV's Stefani Ginting.
A return to the old system will mean a drastic change in the ballot design that won't require the names of individual candidates, he added.
However, it's very unlikely that the Constitutional Court will accept such a motion. It was the same court that agreed on the transition to the open-list system in 2009 under Chief Justice Mohammad Mahfud MD, who is now serving as the coordinating minister for political, legal, and security affairs.
Court verdicts change everything
Hasyim acknowledged that the KPU has no control of any major change in the election system as a result of Constitutional Court verdicts – some were produced during his tenure.
For example, the court has accepted a legal motion to abolish the authority of the government and sitting lawmakers to determine electoral districts at the national and provincial levels and ruled that such an authority is against the constitution.
The court instead handed the authority to the KPU, which in the last election was authorized to determine electoral districts at the municipal and district levels only.
This adds extra work to the already hectic schedule at the KPU as it must prepare electoral map locations countrywide using the latest population data down to the subdistrict level, Hasyim said.
Five years ago, the Constitutional Court ruled that all parties including the incumbent and newcomers must undergo "factual checks" because they have to meet a certain level of public support and a certain percentage of district representatives in any province to participate in the election.
But for the current election, parties which have seats in the House of Representatives are exempt from factual checks. They only need to register and pass "administrative checks", Hasyim said.
Therefore, all elements in the country must anticipate any major change in the election system and that was his key message during Thursday's gathering, Hasyim said.
Controversies aside, Hasyim asserted that the election will proceed as planned.
The KPU has received a list of potential voters for the 2024 poll; as many as 17 parties have qualified for the election; and the government has approved the KPU budget.
"For an organization to work, it must have men, machines, and money. In this respect, everything is available," Hasyim added. "It means the KPU believes that the upcoming general elections will run smoothly."
In May next year, independent candidates for the Regional Representative Council (DPD) – the equivalent to the US Senate – will hand over proof of their public support, followed by the registration of presidential candidates in October.
Indonesia is gearing up for historic elections in which voters will elect legislative members at all levels, mayors, district heads, governors, and the president in the same year for the first time in history.