Jul 24, 2007

Indonesia: Supreme Court On Democratization

The Indonesian Supreme Court ruled yesterday that independent candidates have the right to contest the validity of elections at the provincial, district and mayoralty levels.

The Indonesian Supreme Court ruled yesterday [23 July 2007] that independent candidates have the right to contest the validity of elections at the provincial, district and mayoralty levels.

Below are extracts from an article published by the Brunei Times:

Indonesia’s Constitutional Court yesterday [23 July 2007] ruled that independent candidates can contest local elections in a move seen as further deepening political and democratic reforms in the post-Suharto era.

Democracy activists had criticised the law which allowed only candidates from national parties to contest as just benefiting the political elite while ignoring the aspirations of people in the provinces.

The judicial review of the 2004 law on government in the regions was sought by a district councillor from Central Lombok who was barred from contesting as an independent candidate in local elections.

In a majority six-to-three verdict, the panel of judges ruled that the law was against the constitution, Constitutional Court head Jimly Ashiddiqie said.

The verdict opens the way for independent candidates to contest elections at the provincial, district and mayoralty levels. Independent candidates were previously only allowed to contest elections in Aceh province as part of a 2005 peace deal by the government to end decades of […] insurgency.

Ashiddiqie said the special case of Aceh was among the considerations weighing in favour of the ruling. An independent candidate won against his party-nominated rivals in the gubernatorial election in Aceh last year.

"It should be open (to independent candidates) so that there is no dualism in the implementation of Article 18, Point 4 of the 1945 constitution," the commission chief said, referring to an article that says governors, heads of districts and mayors are to be elected democratically.

He said the requirements for independent candidates should be determined later but that they should not more onerous than those for candidates fielded by political parties.

There has been mounting demand for independent candidates to be allowed to contest local elections, especially following the success of the historic Aceh polls.

Analysts said the verdict would have widespread implications for local elections and political parties.

"This is a good development which will lessen the power of the oligarchy of political parties, meaning it will give members of political parties and the community in general a say in determining their candidates. So far, only the political elite have the power to designate candidates," said Asyumardi Azra, a senior political analyst at State Islamic University.

The move is a further step away from the total domination of politics enjoyed by the then official government party Golkar of former dictator Suharto, who stepped down in 1998 amid widespread unrest.