In the middle of the preparations for the 14 Feb. 2024 elections, public discourse has surfaced on changing the electoral system from an open list to a closed list proportional representation system.
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The discourse has sparked widespread controversy. There are pros and cons, but many cons. The open list and closed list proportional representation systems both have their strengths and weaknesses. Both systems have their supporters. The Constitutional Court is currently reviewing Article 168 Paragraph (2) of Law (UU) No. 7/2017 on the elections in connection with the open list system. The General Elections Commission (KPU) chairman has also talked about this possibility.
In an open list proportional representation system, voters vote for a political party and a legislative candidate, locally termed caleg. In a closed list system, voters only vote for a political party. An open list system allows for the election of popular candidates, but their capacity as lawmakers can sometimes be disappointing. Legislative candidates from a single political party often compete against each other. In a closed list system, the leadership of the ruling party determines the order of candidates.
Proposing a change to the electoral system is legitimate in a democracy. However, the proposal is not timely because the election process has already begun. The simultaneous elections have been set for 14 Feb. 2024. It doesn't make sense to propose a change to the rules of the game when the election process is underway. It would be a different matter if the changes for a new system were implemented for the 2029 elections after an in-depth study.
The elections are held by an independent electoral commission. This duty is fulfilled out by the KPU. The KPU is an executor of the law. The KPU’s duty is based on the Constitution and attendant laws. As an executor of the law, the KPU does not need to be involved in the discourse about an open list or closed list system. That is a job for lawmakers.
In carrying out the stages of the elections, the KPU works in line with the laws and is not required to interpret them. Communication is important to avoid suspicion. Miscommunication can lead to misunderstandings and controversies. In the end, it can affect public trust.
As an institution constitutionally designed to be independent, the KPU must continue to maintain public trust and its credibility. The election management body’s credibility and independence will determine the public’s trust in the KPU.
It must be admitted that there were several incidents in the early days of its work that could undermine public trust in the KPU, such as intimidation against the KPU commissioners. This must be managed and anticipated properly in order to maintain public trust in the KPU.
The stages of the election should not be delayed amidst the controversy over the proposal to change the electoral system from an open list to a closed list proportional representation system.
The election will still be held on 14 Feb. 2024, because it is constitutionally mandated: The elections are held every five years.
This article was translated by Hendarsyah Tarmizi.