25 sole Regional Head candidates

Election Commission (Komisi Pemilihan Umum – “KPU”) Commissioner Ilham Saputra. (Photo: Mohammad Irfan)

Observer: A paradox of our democratic system

IO – The upcoming Regional Elections promise to be lively. There are 25 Gov- ernor and Vice Governor Candidate Pairs, 612 Regent and Vice Regent Candidate Pairs, and 101 Mayor and Vice Mayor Candidate Pairs. In terms of gender, there are 1,321 male can- didates and 155 female candidates. “647 Regent and Vice Regent, Mayor and Vice Mayor Candidate Pairs were submitted by individual or consortium political parties. The remaining 66 Re- gent and Vice Regent/Mayor and Vice Mayor Candidate Pairs chose an inde- pendent route,” said Election Commis- sion (Komisi Pemilihan Umum – “KPU”) Commissioner Ilham Saputra in a clar- i cation Monday (14/09/2020).

Ilham said that of the 738 Candi- date Pairs from the 514 regencies and townships participating in the upcom- ing 2020 Regional Elections, in 25 of these regions they are Sole Candidate Pairs. Among them being the son of Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung, Hanindhito Himawan Pramana, who partners up with Dewi Mariya Ulfa for the election of the Regent of Kediri.

Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (Partai Demokrasi Indonesia Perjuangan – “PDIP”) General Secre- tary Hasto Kristiyanto observed that the phenomenon of sole candidacy in the Regional Elections is not inimical to democracy. Candidate Pairs’ strat- egy of securing a large amount of party support is viewed as an easy way to win. “Political parties like to support strong candidates who are not their own in a region because they see that sectoral processes run smoothly there, and they don’t feel the need to submit their own cadres against this good person. Therefore, they choose to support the strong party and gain support for themselves. This is also part of democ- racy. Sole candidacy is not averse to democracy,” he said.

Faux Political Contributions

Election Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu) member Ratna Dewi Petta- lolo believes that sole candidates are more likely to pay out faux political contributions to parties in order to prevent them from supporting other candidates. “There is a high potential that these sole candidates appear be- cause of faux political contributions. They monopolize the parties’ support,” Ratna said in a webinar held by The Indonesian Institute.

Ratna views the phenomenon of sole candidacy in Regional Elections as a distinct paradox in Indonesia’s democratic system. Democracy should have provided the people with many options for their leadership. However, the existence of speci c regulations means that sole candidacy exists and is not prohibited in Regional Elections in Indonesia. She further stated that the Bawaslu is cooperating with other Government agencies, including the Police, the Attorney General’s Of ce, and conveyancers in order to inves- tigate suspicions relating to the Can- didates’ nancial transactions in the 2020 Regional Elections. “We might nd traces of violations there, and with this cooperation, we have strong evidence that we can prosecute the vi- olation,” she said.

Lingkar Madani untuk Indonesia (LIMA)’s Director Ray Rangkuti said that sole candidates get votes easier than multiple candidates. To suppress the sole candidacy phenomenon in the upcoming Regional Elections, both the candidacy threshold and the vote calculation system must be improved. “For example, sole candidates can only win Regional Elections if they obtain 50% of total votes, instead of determining the winner from the total number of valid votes like we do now,” he said.

Meanwhile, Election and Democ- racy Forum (Perkumpulan Pemilu dan Demokrasi – “Perludem”) Executive Director Titi Anggraini said sole can- didates and dynastic politics are not constitutionally prohibited in Indone- sia. However, these practices must be balanced in order to ensure that fair democracy still applies for all citizens. Citizen sovereignty must be proven by political equality. This means that citizens are more than just allowed to appear and compete, but there must be a guarantee that the competition itself is fair and equal.

Titi believes that there is no other way to check sole candidacy practices than providing alternative candidates. This is possible if we amend several regulations. For example, Regional Elections can be held simultaneously with the election of Regional House of Representatives (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat Daerah – “DPRD”) member- ship. “An even bigger help is if we eliminate the Regional Head candi- dacy threshold. It will encourage the establishment of natural coalitions. Even though there is no candidacy threshold, parties will think of sup- porting candidates that can attract votes and carry the party with their wins,” she said in Perludem’s recent virtual discussion, “Regional Elec- tions, (Trapped) between Dynasties and Empty Ballots”.

Titi further focuses on faux politi- cal contributions. “Joining a candidate from a different party is not easy – for example, there are always rumors of false contributions that cannot be proven legally. It is something that we all know to be constantly present in any Regional Elections candidacy. It is such a pity that cadre regeneration in political parties are now stagnant, while most of the political opponents are incumbents. As they don’t have any outstanding cadres that can com- pete against the incumbent. Finally, political pragmatism rises: Might as well not submit any candidate in this case,” she said.

Arif Susanto, Exposit Strategic’s political analyst, stated that the COVID-19 pandemic contributes to the existence of sole candidates. The pandemic affects political mobility during the search of new candidates. There are several common characteristics shared by regions with sole candidacies: First, the region has an overly dominant political party or figure. Second, the organization of its

political institutions is bad, as indicated by the centralizing of power and strong restrictions in political recruitment. Third, there is a gap of resource distribution among citizens. Finally, socio-political checks and balances are weak. “This is unhealthy for our democracy,” he said. (Dan)