Indonesia’s Constitutional Court will on Thursday rule on a possible change to the country’s electoral system, a decision that has fuelled concerns about political interference in the upcoming February 2024 general and presidential polls.
The case, brought by several politicians including from the ruling Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), seeks a return to the ‘closed’ ballot system. Critics say the change would take the world’s third-largest democracy back to the era of authoritarian rule, when only heads of political parties were empowered to appoint lawmakers.
The current ‘open’ ballot system allows citizens to vote directly for individual lawmakers.
The timing of the case, just eight months out from next year’s simultaneous presidential and legislative elections, has raised eyebrows in Southeast Asia’s biggest country, with many speculating that attempts are underway to engineer an election delay through unorthodox legal means.
Eight out of nine parties represented in parliament, including those allied with the ruling PDI-P, have denounced the case.
President Joko Widodo, or Jokowi, has denied that he is seeking to extend his time in office beyond the two-term limit and recently stated that he would not do anything that would “tarnish democracy.”
The Constitutional Court had in 2008 scrapped the closed ballot mechanism, used during the decades-long rule of former strongman Suharto. It reasoned at the time that an open list provided voters more information about the individuals they were electing.
Judges are expected to issue their ruling on Thursday after a judicial review of the system was filed last November, a court official said.
The independence of the Constitutional Court has also been questioned after the reappointment of the president’s brother-in-law as court’s chief justice this March.