Political parties have started their quest for power in the 2024 elections and are forgetting their role to improve the quality of democracy. Political horse-trading is occurring over the parliamentary and presidential electoral thresholds.
There are three years yet until the general election, but transactional politics have already started. The political elites are busy bargaining with each other to sound out the possibility of coalitions to determine the next presidential and vice-presidential candidates.
A number of people have begun to sweet talk the political parties into nominating them as candidates for the 2024 election. Meanwhile, party members in the government have been busy trying to arrange opportunities to become candidates for the presidency, the vice-presidency and other public positions, while doing a poor job in handling the pandemic and the shambolic economy.
It is apparent the lust for power is more important than preserving democracy. The government and the House of Representatives (DPR) have removed the general elections bill from the national priority legislative program. As a result, elections for regional heads will take place at the same time as the presidential election. This means, in the next three years, their positions will be filled by acting regional heads, who will be easy to control by the central government.
The removal of this bill also means a number of important issues in the bill will not be discussed. One of the most important is the parliamentary and presidential electoral threshold. At present, the threshold of 4 percent of total votes meant that many parties failed to win DPR seats. As a result, many potential legislators were excluded from Senayan and more than ten million votes went to waste. This parliamentary threshold should be reduced to allow small parties to flourish and to allow for participation of alternative leadership candidates.
Meanwhile, the threshold for the presidential election is 25 percent of total DPR seats, or 20 percent of total valid votes. This means only major parties or coalitions of parties in the DPR can propose candidates for the presidency. This slams the door to alternative candidates, and to non-party persons.
Many non-party figures such as Ridwan Kamil, Anies Baswedan and Erick Thohir have appeared on the scene. But this threshold rule means they need to join a political party before running for the presidency. Recruitment of non-party people, as well as failure in caderization, could pave the way to transactional politics leading to escalating political costs. In the end, greater potential for political corruption will soon loom.
It is time the presidential threshold was reduced, or removed altogether. This is the only way to end monopoly by the major parties regarding presidential and VP nominations. The insistence of the political parties to hold on to a high presidential threshold highlights the elite's lust for power and desire to perpetuate the political cartel.
The refusal of the DPR and government to deliberate on the general elections bill could be to ensure the political parties have a bargaining tool in the run up to the 2024 polls. Horse trading will occur, for example, for the presidential threshold in exchange for rules to rope in alternative candidates. The parliamentary threshold will be used to put pressure on small parties to force them to acquiesce to the policies of the major parties, or to agree to alternative presidential candidates.
It is regrettable the political parties apparently have no desire to pass a better general election law. If this is allowed to continue, our democracy, continually being eroded by political corruption, will become even more tarnished in the future.