TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Political pragmatism is on the rise in the run-up to the registration period for the 2019 presidential election. Using all means available, the coalitions supporting and opposing President Joko Widodo are putting together their ideal candidate teams. Political maneuvers have led to an awkward response: Jusuf Kalla has asked the Constitutional Court for a legal review so he can run for the vice-presidency a third time.
The legal challenge on the right to be re-elected was initially submitted by the United Indonesia Party (Perindo). At the hearing, the constitutional judges took the view that the party’s legal case was weak as it had not been harmed by the limit. This was because Perindo was simply considering Jusuf Kalla as a vice-presidential candidate. In order to strengthen the legal standing, Kalla then stepped forward as the plaintiff.
Kalla’s hand was forced by an unhealthy political situation. The democratic process is constrained by the presidential threshold rule. Candidates need support from several political parties. Jokowi the incumbent, who has ample support, is taking advantage of this. Along with the parties supporting him, he seems to be waiting to see who his opponents choose before settling on his choice for running mate So far, only Prabowo Subianto has declared his intention to run for the presidency. But he is still busy trying to recruit parties to support him, as well as seeking a running mate.
These competing strategies have compelled certain groups to team up Jokowi with Jusuf Kalla once again. This pairing is seen as difficult to beat. It is predicted that the Jokowi-Kalla candidacy will defeat Prabowo-Agus Yudhoyono, Prabowo-Anies Baswedanandother pairings.
Kalla is known for his flexibility when facing opponents-especially those who portray themselves as representing Muslim voters. The assumption that Jokowi is unpopular with Muslims has, unfortunately, gained credibility
Complicating the situation in addition to Kalla’s personal ambition has been the parties supporting Jokowi, in particular, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), which have encouraged Kalla to run for re-election. Some party leaders have presumed that because of his age, Kalla would not run for the presidency in 2024-which would allow the PDI-P to nominate one of its own members. The problem is that Kalla’s plan faces a legal wall. He was vice president under President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono from 2004 to 2009.
This simulated contest triggered a hasty legal challenge. Perindo’s argument that Article 169c of the General Election Law contradicts the Constitution is very weak. The article in question reads "has never served as president or vice president for two periods in the same position." This does not contravene the Constitution because it simply repeats one of its provisions, only in different words.
Article 7 of the 1945 Constitution states that the president and vice president serve for five years, and can subsequently be reelected for the same position for one more period. The word "subsequently" cannot be interpreted as only applying to a person serving two consecutive terms. The opinion of Jusuf Kalla’s legal team seems rather contrived. They are now taking the view that the term limit as cited in the Constitution, only applies to the president, not the vice president.
If it is granted, the legal challenge could lead to the rise of political oligarchies. Term limits for the president and vice president, as cited in the first amendment to the 1945 Constitution, are to prevent a repeat of the authoritarian New Order regime which turned a blind eye to corruption, collusion and nepotism. And the same trend that led to ending term limits also led to their imposition on regional leaders, despite the fact that this is not in the Constitution.
The Constitution allows for limits on reelection. Article 28J reads, "In exercising their rights and freedoms, every person must be subject to the limits laid down by law." Based on this principle, in 2010 the Constitutional Court rejected a legal challenge to the term limits for regional heads.
To ensure consistency, the Constitutional Court must look at the results of previous legal reviews before ruling on the challenge put forward by Perindo and Kalla. If the principle of term limits is ended, many former regional leaders will stand again in regional elections. The Court must not create new norms by ignoring the Constitution and setting a bad precedent that would damage the governance of the state.