Politicians, researchers, observers: Eliminate presidential threshold

The Head of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences’ (Lembaga Ilmu Pengetahuan Indonesia – “LIPI”) Political Research Center, Firman Noor, believes that the presidential threshold should be eliminated. (Photo: Prive. Doc)

IO – Head of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences’ (Lembaga Ilmu Pengetahuan Indonesia – “LIPI”) Political Research Center Firman Noor opined in a virtual discussion held on Sunday (14/06/2020) that the presidential voting threshold should be eliminated. According to him, maintaining the threshold will result in six unwanted impacts: 1) It preserves a tendency among citizens to polarize, 2) it triggers “pragmatic negotiations” (or money politics), 3) it restricts the possibility of alternative candidates, 4) it conflicts with the principle of simultaneity, because the threshold is set following the results of previous elections, 5) it keeps political parties immature because they are not given the chance to fight things out and strengthen themselves, and 6) it blurs the meaning of the term “to strengthen presidentialism”. 

According to Firman, the existence of a presidential threshold strengthens a “president” instead of “presidentialism”. A minority support for the president in the Parliament does not always mean that the president will be weakened or obstructed. For example, former American presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton held on until the end of their second tenures, despite low support from their Congress. “The higher the presidential threshold is, the more acute the intensity of the six issues becomes,” he claimed. 

Discussions concerning the presidential candidacy threshold are highlighted in the House of Representatives (DPR) plan to revise Law Number 7 of 2017 concerning the Elections. According to Chairman of DPR’s Committee II, Ahmad Doli Kurnia, most parties would prefer the presidential threshold to remain at its current level. According to the Elections Law, President and Vice President candidates are submitted by political parties or political party consortiums with the requirements that these parties secure at least 20% votes in the Parliament (DPR) or 25% of total votes nationally. However, a number of parties want the presidential threshold to be lowered. The National Awakening Party (Partai Kebangkitan Bangsa – “PKB”) suggests that the presidential threshold be lowered to 10%, while the Prosperous Justice Party (Partai Keadilan Sejahtera – “PKS”) requests 5% and the Democrat Party suggests a presidential threshold of either 10% or 0%. 

DPR RI Member from the National Mandate Party (Partai Amanat Nasional – “PAN”) Faction Guspardi Gaus criticizes the entire structure of the presidential threshold system, declaring it an effort to limit competition in Presidential Elections, as it reduces the possibility of a person being allowed as a candidate and generates polarization due to the fact that it only allows for the emergence of two candidates. “Furthermore, there is little logic in setting the threshold reference based on the results of the previous election,” he said in a written statement, Tuesday (09/06/2020). 

If the regulations concerning presidential threshold do not change, it will be quite likely that only two Candidate Pairs will be submitted in 2024. Gaus made the statement based on a summary of votes obtained in the 2019 Legislative Elections, wherein none of the nine existing parties who passed parliamentary threshold achieved 20% of the votes. “This presidential threshold does not comply with the spirit of reforms and reflects a degeneration of democracy in Indonesia. It should be eliminated – or at least, parties that pass into Senayan should be given the right to submit Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates,” he said. 

“The more candidates appear in the Presidential Elections, the more options available for the people for their future Head of State. The people have the right to choose the best candidate. There is no need for us to pre-engineer available choices through the threshold. The view that new political parties do not have the right to submit Presidential Candidates is the wrong way to view democracy,” Gaus said. “The 2019 Presidential Elections should be a valuable lesson to us: setting a presidential threshold has caused our people to separate into two opposing forces that remain opposed, even after Elections are over.” 

A Trigger for Oligarchy 

Meanwhile, Forum for Elections and Democracy (Perkumpulan untuk Pemilu dan Demokrasi – “Perludem”)’s Executive Director Titi Anggraini believes that the presidential threshold is a trigger for oligarchy, as well as something that weakens political parties. “It makes it hard to generate truly democratic parties, and it causes our electoral process to be far from being idea-based,” she said in a virtual discussion titled “Presidential Electoral Threshold and Oligarchic Powers” held on Friday (12/06/2020). 

“The presidential threshold further restricts female participation in politics, as fewer voters would “gamble” on backing female candidates. This further strengthens the potential for transactional, pragmatic politics. Therefore, if we wish to provide Elections that actually allow space for the best cadres of the nations, for the best sons and daughters of the nation, then there is no option but to eliminate the presidential threshold. We will have at least one means to mitigate oligarchy. Other means include issuing Elections Draft Laws that solidify the proportionality of our system,” she said. “Eliminating a presidential threshold should optimize vote counts and avoid the loss of valid votes. We maintain the purity of our votes, convert all votes into seats, and protect diversity of representation with this Law.” 

Titi believes that we all should defend the Elections Draft Law currently being discussed at DPR. “Even though when we just see its name, the Election Draft Law seem to only regulate Elections; any excess ruling will have a widespread impact on how we run the country,” she said. “This also determines whether the output of our electoral processes will strengthen oligarchy, or whether it will actually do what it is meant to do: direct the power of the State toward the utmost interest of the people.” (Dan)