The following arrived from Nathan Allen via e-mail. He had tried to post it as a comment to an earlier thread on Indonesia’s party lists, but was unable to due to the software glitches. I am planting it here in order to offer an update on an important upcoming election.
The rest of what follows is in Nathan’s words, not mine.
Given the fluid situation, descriptions of the Indonesian electoral system tend to become dated after a couple weeks. So this post may have a short shelf-life.
As Wilf Day highlighted, the Court’s decision effectively created an open-list system. To answer Wilf’s question, before the ruling candidates candidates* were awarded seats after the election but based on their list number in the district (that is if all candidates failed to meet the electoral quota). The parties can’t tinker with this after the election. So low numbers were coveted and tended to fetch a high price.
The Court’s ruling has been controversial though. Some within the national electoral authorities (KPU) questioned the the Court’s decision and tried to regulate around it. A major point of controversy has revolved around the representation of women. The KPU has some authority to pass regulation seeking to increase the representation of women in the legislature. They enacted a ‘zipper’ system requiring that parties include 1 woman for every 3 positions it filled. This was an attempt to force parties to rank women in the choice list positions (1, 2, or 3), thereby decreasing the gender imbalance in the legislature.
When the list was made completely open it challenged the KPU’s attempt to engineer the construction of lists to increase women’s representation. There is some expectation that gender bias among voters will mean female candidates will suffer. The KPU has made statements suggesting they will ignore the ruling and they have actively pushed the legislature and executive to weigh in on their side. There are internal divisions within the KPU on whether they are charged with increasing women’s representation in the legislature or just the candidate lists however. My sense is that the momentum is with the Court. A former KPU head who maintains contacts within the organization recently came out in against KPU challenges to the Court’s ruling. And the Court has threatened to press criminal action against the KPU if they do not abide by the ruling.
On the ground things continues as if the system is completely open. Candidates tend to run their own organization and some will tell you that the competition with co-partisans is fierce. Changes to the system have already thrown people for a loop (all those people who paid for choice list positions find the value of their investment significantly decreased). If the KPU tried to mess with the system again there will be tens of thousands of very angry people in so-so list positions who have just spent a bundle of cash on their campaign.
* Ruling parties’ candidates, I assume–MSS.