Setting a Presidential Threshold to build Democracy

Fahri Bachmid, State Administration Law expert from the Indonesian Muslim University (Universitas Muslim Indonesia – “UMI”) in Makassar. (Photo: Prive. Doc)

IO – A number of people consider a presidential threshold of 20% to fundamentally run counter to the spirit of democracy and to the constitution. This threshold only extends to presidential candidates who win at least 20% of total seats in the House of Representatives (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat – “DPR”), or 25% of national legal votes during the previous legislative elections. If this ruling is kept in the 2024 Elections, only one or two presidential candidates will be eligible to participate in the upcoming political contest. This means that other candidates the Party supports would not have a chance from the very start. 

Universitas Muslim Indonesia – “UMI” (Indonesian Muslim University), Makassar expert in state administration Fahri Bachmid, believes that it is high time for the presidential threshold to be adjusted for the 2024 Elections and all subsequent elections. He believes that it would eliminate the monopoly of parties that can submit presidential candidates in subsequent elections. “It’s time for us to leave the paradigm of party monopoly when submitting Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates. Let the people choose among many candidates; let us stop oligarchic political practices, in order to establish truly substantial democracy,” he said in the recent webinar titled “Election Draft Laws and Presidential Threshold from a Constitutional Perspective”. 

Fahri stated that the people yearn for a bigger “menu” of quality statesmen for presidential candidates. Therefore, the system should be more accommodating and allow for alternative presidential candidates form political parties as mandated by the Constitution. A presidential threshold of 20% is contrary the spirit of the Constitution and it is also unconstitutional. “If we continue to maintain this presidential threshold norms and procedures in the upcoming Election Draft Law, and some citizens wish to challenge that ruling to the Courts, we naturally hope that the Supreme Court as the guardian of the Constitution can change its stance. We hope that the Supreme Court would stop tolerating violations to the Constitution by State administrators, including the DPR and the Government who are formulating this Draft Law,” he said. 

The constitutional design for electing President and Vice President as regulated in Article 6A Paragraph (2) of the Constitution of RI of 1945 stated that “The President and Vice President Candidates are suggested by political parties or political party coalitions participating in the Elections before the Elections are held.” Article 22.E Paragraph (2) stipulates that Elections are held to select members of the DPR of RI, the Regional Representative Council (Dewan Perwakilan Daerah – “DPD”) of RI, President and Vice President, and Regional House of Representatives (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat Daerah – “DPRD”) of RI. Paragraph (3) of the same Article stipulates that electoral participants for the selection of members of DPR and DPRD are political parties. Fahri reiterates that the construction such a Presidential Election system constitutionally cannot be interpreted otherwise, using the presidential threshold ruling as stipulated in Article 222 of Law Number 7 of 2017. The latter rules that Presidential Candidate Pairs suggested by political parties or political party coalitions participating in the Election must satisfy the requirement of having at least 20% of seats in the DPR or 25% of national legal votes during the previous legislative elections. Therefore, it is important that the candidacy threshold for Presidents and Vice Presidents be adjusted. It is a sincere effort to uphold the principle of Indonesia as a democratic law-based country, and to uphold the supremacy of the Constitution as part of the principle of constitutionalism. 

Weakening Political Parties 

Similarly, Executive Director of the Forum for Elections and Democracy (Perkumpulan untuk Pemilu dan Demokrasi – “Perludem”) Titi Anggraini believes that a presidential threshold triggers oligarchy, as well as weakening political parties. “It makes it harder for us to establish and maintain democratic parties. It also pushes our electoral process further and further from being idea-based elections,” she said in a recent virtual discussion titled “Presidential Threshold and Oligarchic Powers”. 

Titi further stated that presidential threshold will also further restrict women’s participation in politics, and strengthen the potential for transactional politics and pragmatical politics. “Therefore, if we want to hold elections that actually provide space for the nation’s best candidates, for the nation’s best sons and daughters, we don’t have a choice but to eliminate presidential threshold. That way, we would at least seal one gate of oligarchy. We can support this by creating Election Draft Law that further strengthen the proportionality of our political system,” she said. 

Titi states that we need to monitor the Election Draft Law which the DPR RI is creating together. “This is because even though from the name it seems that the Draft Law will only be regulating “elections”, the implications of the rulings in this Draft Law will absolutely affect how we run the country. The output of elections itself will also affect the power of oligarchy in our country, i.e. whether it will become stronger, or whether the powers of the State will actually be used for the best interest of the people,” she said. 

Universitas Al Azhar Indonesia – “UAI”( Al Azhar Indonesia University ) political observer Ujang Komarudin stated that he would prefer to have the presidential threshold be lowered, than to have it be totally eliminated. “I would prefer a reduction of the threshold, for example from 20% to 10%. It would be wiser that way, because if we totally eliminate the threshold, irregular parties can also submit candidates for presidency,” he said. (dan)