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
KB Kee is the Managing Editor of the Moat Report Asia (, a research service focused exclusively on highlighting undervalued wide-moat businesses in Asia; subscribers from North America, Europe, the Oceania and Asia include professional value investors with over $20 billion in asset under management in equities, some of the world’s biggest secretive global hedge fund giants, and savvy private individual investors who are lifelong learners in the art of value investing. KB has been rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as an analyst in Asian capital markets. He was head of research and fund manager at a Singapore-based value investment firm. As a member of the investment committee, he helped the firm’s Asia-focused equity funds significantly outperform the benchmark index. He was previously the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. KB has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy, value investing, macroeconomic and industry trends, and detecting accounting frauds in Singapore, HK and China. KB was a faculty (accounting) at SMU teaching accounting courses. KB is currently the Chief Investment Officer at an ASX-listed investment holdings company since September 2015, helping to manage the listed Asian equities investments in the Hidden Champions Fund. Disclaimer: This article is for discussion purposes only and does not constitute an offer, recommendation or solicitation to buy or sell any investments, securities, futures or options. All articles in the website reflect the personal opinions of the writer.

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