Jakarta, IO – The Central Jakarta District Court ruling on Thursday (2/3) ordering the General Elections Commission (KPU) to postpone the 2024 General Election (GE2024) promptly sent a shockwave through the Indonesian political scene – and the public as well. The decision was issued in connection with a lawsuit filed on December 8, 2022 by a small and relatively unknown political player called “Prima Party”, challenging the KPU decision to disqualify it from contesting GE2024, as it did not pass the administrative verification stage.
The verdict, read out by a three-member bench (Chief Judge T. Oyong, Judge H. Bakri and Judge Doweeks Silaban) rejected the objection or rebuttal by KPU, with regard to a lawsuit brought by Prima Party as vague/obscure (obscuur libel). Thus the bench ruled to: (1) Accept Prima Party’s petition in its entirety; (2) Declare that Prima Party has suffered losses in the administrative verification by the KPU; (3) Declare that KPU has committed an unlawful act; (4) Order KPU to pay material compensation of Rp500,000,000 to Prima Party; (5) Order KPU to halt the remaining stages of the 2024 General Election, since this decision was pronounced and to carry out the election stages from the beginning for approximately two years, four months and seven days; (6) Declare that the decision in this case can be executed immediately (uitvoerbaar bij voorraad); and (7) Decide that the court fee of Rp410,000 be chargeable to KPU.
The “bombshell” ruling soon sparked intense public debate. It can be said that no one ever expected to hear such a decision being handed down by a general court. Even Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Mahfud MD went as far as publicly stating that he suspected there was a “play” behind the shocking decision. He argued that the Central Jakarta District Court had overstepped its boundaries as the matter should be resolved through administrative law, instead of civil law.
PDI-P secretary general Hasto Kristiyanto agreed. He also suspected that there are “major powers” who seek to postpone GE2024 using judicial hands and exploiting legal loopholes to carry out unconstitutional maneuvers. Hasto is of the view that the district court does not have the authority to rule on disputes related to the determination of election contestants, the authority for which rest with the Elections Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu) or the State Administrative Court (PTUN).
Long road to justice
Before we discuss the political and legal aspects of the Central Jakarta District Court decision, we need to understand what triggered the civil lawsuit in the first place. It was part of a long and convoluted legal battle launched by Prima Party to challenge KPU decision which it deemed dubious and unfair. As was reported, KPU on October 13, 2022 announced the administrative verification results of parties seeking to contest GE2024. It stated that Prima Party did not meet requirements and was thus disqualified from going to the next stage, which was factual verification.
Prima Party responded to the decision by submitting a request for dispute review to Bawaslu, on October 17, 2022. This mechanism is provisioned by Law 7/2017 on general elections, as a legal channel to contest KPU decision. In its complaints, Prima Party alleged maladministration and irregularities which violated the principle of accuracy, legal certainty, transparency and professionalism in electoral organizing by KPU. This, Prima Party argued, prevented it from taking part in a series of administrative verification processes in an optimal and fair manner.
Prima Party objected that in carrying out the verification process from the beginning to the end, KPU always used the Political Parties Information System (SIPOL) as their main instrument. However, in reality, Prima Party contended that system was ridden with problems. For example, since access was allowed and political parties were asked to fill out required documents, there were frequent system errors, leading to repeated rejection or validation failure. The server was also often down, making it difficult for Prima Party to fill in the requested information and suffering a loss of data already inputted. The system’s security was also questionable.
After a series of hearings, Bawaslu came to a decision that no technical issue was found on the administrative verification process. However, since KPU made used of SIPOL, which lacked legal certainty, it was obliged to give Prima Party 24 hours to resubmit completed documents and conduct reverification.
In response to the Bawaslu directive, KPU issued a letter stating that improvement of required data and documents on the party’s organization, bank account and office can only be made on Prima Party’s data and documents, declared inadequate to meet the requirements as stated in KPU Official Record 232/PL.01. 1BA/05/2022.
Second, the administrative verification results of the required data and documents, including organization, bank account, office and membership declared valid as stated in KPU Official Record 232/PL.01. 1BA/05/2022 cannot be amended/ improved. Third, administrative verification results of Prima Party membership declared not meeting the requirements as stated in KPU Official Record 232/PL.01.1BA/05/2022 cannot be amended/improved. Fourth, only new data on membership is allowed for resubmission.
Prima viewed this decision as limiting its rights to make necessary revisions to required documents as contained in Bawaslu decision. However, KPU stood by its decision. After the follow-up to Bawaslu decision was considered complete, KPU issued Official Record 275/PL.01.1- BA/05/2022 dated November 18, 2022 enumerating political parties qualified to contest GE2024. Once again, Prima Party was excluded.