National courts, local antagonisms

The Indonesian Constitutional Court recently issued two important decisions with the potential to realign Jakarta’s relations with two troublesome provinces. In the first decision, the Court ruled that Aceh must allow independent candidates to run. Unique in Indonesia, Aceh permits local parties and local party candidates. However, the Court ruled that Aceh’s special status did not preclude independent candidates from exercising their rights. Second, the Court resolved conflicts between indigenous rights and democracy. The Court held that, despite an earlier law, Papua must permit direct elections for governor and vice-governor. The irony here is that the court, a national institution, is nominally protecting local suffrage. However, one could also view this as national elites interfering and even rewriting local rules. Indeed, in both cases the national government had negotiated special local autonomy provisions and then allowed the Constitutional Court to override them. For more analysis, see the International Crisis Group’s briefing here.

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