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Indonesia poll body to push ahead with 2024 elections despite court ruling

FILE PHOTO: A voter casts a ballot during elections in Jakarta, Indonesia

By Ananda Teresia and Stefanno Sulaiman

JAKARTA (Reuters) -Indonesia's poll body on Thursday vowed to forge ahead with organising next year's presidential election, defying a surprise ruling by a district court to halt all election processes for more than two years.

The election commission, or KPU, said it would appeal Thursday's ruling by the Central Jakarta district court, which was issued over a lawsuit filed by an obscure party after its application to contest elections was rejected last year.

Indonesia's biggest party and the country's chief security minister dismissed the ruling and said a district court has no authority to decide election issues.

It was not immediately clear why the court ordered all election processes to stop, which at the earliest would push back to 2025 elections for a new president and legislature.

"Any laws regulating election processes and schedules are still legal and legally binding," KPU chief Hasyim Asy'ari told a news conference, adding it would continue its work regardless of the ruling.

President Joko Widodo's Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP) said the court had no right to make such a decision and the judges should be investigated.

"PDIP thinks the court's ruling must be annulled," its secretary general, Hasto Kristiyanto, said in a statement.

"Any effort to delay the election is unconstitutional."

PDIP argued that the Constitutional Court had made clear in a ruling on another case on Tuesday that there could be no extension beyond a president's maximum two terms in office, which would effectively happen if an election were delayed.

LIVELY DEBATE

The issue of extending a president's tenure has sparked a lively debate in Indonesia, with some senior political figures openly backing the idea of Jokowi, as the incumbent is popularly known, staying in office beyond his second term, which ends next year.

Jokowi has rejected the idea and critics have called it undemocratic.

The lawsuit decided by the court on Thursday was filed last year by the Just Prosperous People's Party, or Prima Party, which was formed in 2020 and has never contested an election.

It lauded the court's decision, describing it as "a victory for the common people".

"We hope all parties respect the ruling by the district court. Sovereignty is on the hands of the people," its Chairman Agus Jabo Priyono and Secretary General Dominggus Oktavianus said in a joint statement.

Indonesia's law and human rights minister, Yasonna Laoly, declined to comment until he had seen the ruling, while Mahfud MD, the chief security minister, said the court had made a sensational ruling that it had no authority to issue.

"The verdict is wrong, the logic is simple. It is easy to deny this verdict, but it might trigger controversy," he said on Instagram, adding it should be legally challenged and rejected by the people.

The KPU said it had argued before the district court that the matter was for an administrative court to rule on.

Thursday's decision has divided legal experts over whether a district court has the power to delay an election.

Titi Anggraini of election watchdog Perludem said the court had acted beyond its authority, calling the verdict "weird, awkward and suspicious", while Andalas University law expert Feri Amsari said the court should have ruled on the party verification process instead of ordering an election delay.

(Reporting by Ananda Teresia and Stefanno Sulaiman; Writing by Gayatri Suroyo and Martin Petty; Editing by Richard Chang)