Anxiety about the elections

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Khoirunnisa Nur Agustyati Election and Democracy Forum (Perkumpulan Pemilu dan Demokrasi – “Perludem”)’s Executive Director

IO – Elections should ideally be full of hope. There is hope for the election of a leader who can realize public aspirations. There is also the hope of producing a leadership that can set non-discriminatory policies. Or other expectations. 

For this reason, the organization of elections must be ensured to be following democratic election principles. Why are elections even held without the aim of fulfilling expectations? 

However, it seems the election this time is different. Those good hopes are streaked with anxiety. The reason: the holding of the elections will be carried out in the midst of a pandemic of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). 

A Meeting held between the General Election Commission (KPU), Commission II of the Parliament (DPR), and the Government on Wednesday, May 27, 2020, confirmed that the holding of the elections will continue on 9 December 2020. As we move towards the polling day, stages of the elections will begin on June 15, 2020. In other words, electoral stages will begin again in about two weeks. 

Events are carried out to replace stages that were previously postponed, including the factual verification of support for prospective individuals. There are also stages of voter data matching and research. 

The first concern is that the KPU and the Election Oversight Body (Bawaslu) are required to remain capable of holding local elections. Both were encouraged to be creative in emergency organization of elections amid the Covid-19 outbreak. 

However, the demands of creativity are not supported by adequate regulation. Perpu No. 2/2020 does not provide space for the KPU to hold elections creatively. This is because in Perpu 2/2020 only regulates the KPU’s authority to postpone the election stages nationally, shift the election schedule from September 2020 to December 2020, and if conditions are not yet conducive to holding elections, the KPU can delay them again with the approval of the Parliament and the Government. 

From the stipulation of the Perpu, there is no amendment to the article on the procedure for organizing the elections. The procedure for organizing the elections contained in the Election Law is for organizing the elections in a normal situation. This is what binds the hands of the election organizers: it is difficult to be creative. 

The next concern is the availability of a budget to support the holding of the elections amid the Covid-19 outbreak. One of the conclusions of the meeting between the KPU, the Parliament, and the Government was to ask the KPU and Bawaslu to submit an additional budget to the local government to enable the implementation of the elections. 

The question is, will the budget be ready to be disbursed in less than two weeks? What about the mechanism for changing the local government’s budget (APBD) which is customarily only discussed in August? Bear in mind the stages will again begin on June 15, 2020. 

The immediate steps are to continue the previously-postponed stage. Call it a matching and research process for updating voter lists and verifying the support of individual candidates. In this stage, the officers will meet with many people, so they will need protective equipment such as masks, gloves, and personal protective equipment. This means that these needs must be budgeted and held within approximately two weeks, while the budget will only be submitted by the KPU. 

Candidates will also be overcome by anxiety because they are concerned that they cannot carry out their campaigns optimally, even though a campaign is a very important stage to convey the vision, mission, and program of the candidate to be able to attract voter choice. 

There is indeed a discourse that campaigns may be carried out online, using social media or virtual meetings. But how broad a reach can it effect on voters? What about areas with inadequate technological devices and internet networks? Voters must get as much information as possible about candidates who will lead their regions. 

Voters will also be overcome with anxiety if the elections are held amid an outbreak of Covid-19 that has not ended. Voters need a guarantee that when they attend a polling station it will not endanger their health. For that, we need support equipment such as pens, masks, gloves, or safe ink. As we all know that the surface of an object can be a COVID-19 transmission medium. Of course, all of this must be handled safety. This guarantee is needed so that community participation in the 2020 elections is high. 

Some say that elections are for humans. Not the other way around, humans for elections. Because of that, the organization of elections must ensure humanitarian values and still maintain democratic election principles.