Chief justice calls for re-evaluation of simultaneous elections

Jakarta Post
Fecha de publicación: 
26 Abr 2019

After reports emerged last week that more than 200 election workers and police officers died of fatigue after voting day, calls are now mounting for the simultaneous presidential and legislative election system to be evaluated.

Constitutional Court Chief Justice Anwar Usman was among those who acknowledged that the new system was too complicated, opening up the door for it to be challenged in court.

Anwar, who expressed his sorrow over the deaths of the election workers and police officers across the country, said he felt guilty because he took part in the judicial review petition, which became the basis of the simultaneous elections.

The court ruled in early 2014 that starting in 2019, the presidential and legislative elections were to be held simultaneously on the same day and that separate elections were no longer possible.

"I came home from the polling station and I [realized] how difficult the election was,” Anwar said recently. “But the Constitutional Court justices’ decision is not the word of God; even the Constitution could be amended.”

In the ruling five years ago, the court ruled in favor of simultaneous elections because of, among other things, time and budget constraints. However, Anwar said the election budget turned out to be more than the initial estimate and reached up to Rp 25 trillion (US$1.7 billion). 

He admitted that the elections on April 17 had been the most complex in the world and far more difficult than the ones held in the United States.

For this year’s elections, the General Elections Commission (KPU) recruited more than 7.2 million people to help run 810,329 polling stations and serve about 192.86 million eligible voters nationwide.

The simultaneous elections meant that each voter had to cast five separate ballots: one for president and vice president, one for the House of Representatives, one for the Regional Representatives Council, one for their provincial legislative council (DPRD) and one for the regional or municipal legislative council.

As of Thursday, the KPU recorded that at least 225 local poll administrators (KPPS) across the country died while 1,470 others were sick, presumably due to exhaustion.

Anwar, who leads the court’s nine-panel bench that is currently bracing for possible election disputes after the KPU announces the final tally on May 22, said the simultaneous elections should be evaluated in the future.

“Heavy duties still await [the court], though I frankly hope that objections, especially in the presidential election result, would not be lodged at the court,” he said.

Press Council chairman Yosep Adi Prasetyo concurred with Anwar, saying that the simultaneous elections had been the world’s most complex as it involved hundreds of millions people voting in three different time zones.

Yosep told the press to publish election-related news based on facts, which are balanced and fair, urging it to remain skeptical and verify information.