Behind Simple Majority, a Complex Spread

Behind Simple Majority, a Complex Spread

By Jakarta Globe on 09:33 am Jun 12, 2014

Candidates must have strong support in more than half of all provinces for a legitimate poll win. (JG Photo/Safir Makki)

Jakarta. By most accounts, Joko Widodo is the favorite to win Indonesia’s presidential election July 9, with various polls giving him anything from 32 percent to 51 percent.

He’ll need to hit the upper end of that range if he’s to claim the presidency, with Indonesian electoral law requiring a simple majority in order to avoid a runoff vote.

But a little-known article in another, more fundamental set of rules could still see the race go down to a revote even if Joko or his rival, Prabowo Subianto, gets the 50 percent plus.

Article 6A, subsection 3, of the Constitution states that only a candidate who has won a simple majority, with at least 20 percent in each of more than half of all provinces, can be declared president. Simply put: to win, a candidate needs to win a fifth of the vote in at least 17 provinces.

And that requirement, says Yusril Ihza Mahendra, a former justice minister and constitutional law professor, has the potential to cause a major ruckus.

“That means that even if a candidate gets the majority of votes, but those votes come from just a few big provinces and he doesn’t fare as well in the rest of the provinces, then a revote is required,” he says.

“Obviously that’s going to be a huge cost, but that’s what the Constitution says. And if either of the candidate protests, there might be the potential for violence by their supporters,” he warns.

But there’s no real risk of election organizers having to call a revote, given that both Joko and Prabowo comfortably command at least 20 percent of support in most of the country’s 34 provinces, says Adjie Alfaraby, a researcher with the Indonesian Survey Circle, or LSI.

“Our latest survey shows that they both meet this requirement. So what they’ll really be chasing is the overall majority vote,” he says.

The 20 percent requirement in half of all provinces, introduced as part of a set of amendments in 2001, is there for a good reason, says Irman Putra Sidin, a constitutional law expert.

It gives the elected president greater legitimacy by ensuring that they get their votes from all across the country, and not from the cluster of provinces in Java, which account for around 40 percent of all registered voters.

“What we’re looking for is a president for Indonesia — for the whole of Indonesia, who has strong support from the majority of provinces across the country,” Irman says.

The requirement is not without its critics, however, who argue that the spread of the winning candidate’s popularity shouldn’t matter as much as the total number of votes that they get.

“There’s no point requiring them to win a certain amount of votes in a given number of provinces,” Asep Yusuf Warlan, a law expert, said as quoted by Republika Online.

He calls the requirement “no longer relevant,” and says it can be used to undermine the legitimacy of a candidate who wins by a clear majority.

“There’s no need to split hairs on which provinces or how many of them voted for who. What matters is the total number of people who vote for the candidates,” Asep says.


About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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