Thursday, June 8, 2023 | 08:15 WIB

Elections and fair competition


Jakarta, IO – The electoral system is, basically, a mechanism for converting votes in general elections into seats to be won by parties and candidates. It has three key variables. The first is the electoral formula: whether it uses a plurality/majority, proportional, mixed, or other system, and a mathematical formula to calculate the seat allocation. Second is the ballot structure: whether voters vote for a candidate or party, make one choice or select several preferences. Third is the size of the electoral district, which reflects the number of legislative representatives in a given constituency. 

The electoral system is also connected to the nomination method, representation threshold, seat-obtaining formula, affirmation of elected candidates and election schedule. Considering the scope, the decision of an electoral system is the most vital in a democratic political system, because it involves the direct interest of political parties to access power by securing seats in elections. 

An electoral system can foster democracy, achieve national goals and prevent crooks from controlling the Government. At least ten points must be considered, in settling on an electoral system (Andrew Reynolds in Designing an Electoral System, Juan J. Linz et al., 2001). Some of these are attention representation, ease of access, facilitating stable and efficient Government, encouraging the party to work better, encouraging opposition in the legislature and making the electoral process sustainable. 

Therefore, the electoral system should not be decided hastily, let alone partially. The electoral system has a strongly partisan nature. It becomes a crucial issue and takes a long time to decide. In the history of deliberating the General Election Bill, the House of Representatives (DPR) failed to reach a consensus three times, and had to hold a vote, that is, in 2008, 2012 and 2017. Substances that reached an impasse included the issues of seat allocation, the method of counting the remaining votes and obtaining seats, and parliamentary and presidential thresholds. 

Once the Election Law is enacted, it is usually followed by a bout of judicial review at the Constitutional Court, either by political parties (especially those without seats in the DPR), civil society organizations concerned with elections, women’s groups or political figures with a direct interest in setting norms in the Election Law. 

Political pragmatism 

Finally, for the first time after the 1998 Reformation, the Election Law was subject to no changes. On March 9, 2021, the Government, the DPR and the Regional Representative Council (DPD) agreed to withdraw the General Election Bill from the list of Priority National Legislation Programs. The decision not to proceed with the Election Bill was taken amid many demands for improvements based on the evaluation results of the 2019 simultaneous elections, particularly the issues of election management and law enforcement. Criticism arose from academics, activists and election observers. 

The cancellation of the General Election Bill is considered a form of pragmatism by parties and political elites, a reflection of a political compromise that risks the quality and credibility of the 2024 election. While parties benefit from the absence of change, election administrators and voters must struggle with technical complexities found in the 2019 election. 


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