DPR demands strict implementation of health protocols during Regional Elections

Ahmad Doli Kurnia. (Photo: Prive. Doc)

IO – Chairman (DPR)’s Commission II, Ahmad Doli Kurnia, does not deny that the decision to continue holding Regional Elections this year was a hard one to make. Due to Corona, Regional Elections will be delayed from 23 September 2020 to 9 December 2020. Doli stated that this decision was made after long discussions with relevant parties, such as the Government, the DPR, the Elections Commission (KPU), and the COVID-19 Mitigation Task Force. 

The date was set because nobody knew when the COVID-19 plague will end. “Nobody dared to even make a prediction,” Doli said in the virtual discussion themed “Considering the Risks of Simultaneous Regional Elections 9 December 2020” held in Jakarta on Tuesday (02/06/2020). 

Even if a COVID vaccine can be created within 8-12 months, mass production is not expected to start until 2022 and all Indonesian citizens can be vaccinated in 2023 at the earliest. Doli quoted WHO in stating that the COVID-19 pandemic will conservatively last 2-5 years. Considering this, Indonesia cannot simply give way to the virus and must continue to keep on the daily life, including by holding Regional Elections. 

Doli is optimistic that Regional Elections can still be held if we adhere to strict health protocols. “On the other hand, we need to maintain the quality of our democracy. We can either submit completely to the virus, or we can take measured risks according to its characteristics. As I see it, the virus issue is no longer just a health issue, but it includes other life dimensions lain such as economic, social, cultural, even politics. All of it are equally important. Therefore, other agenda must continue, including political ones such as Regional Elections,” he said. 

Doli admits that holding Regional Elections amid the COVID-19 pandemic is a risky move, as there can be massive infection by the virus. However, Regional Elections can still be performed if we adhere to strict health protocols, such as wearing face masks, gloves, using thermometers and Personal Protective Devices (PPEs), hand sanitizers, etc. Another risk is the massively increased cost of Regional Elections, as various health equipment must be provided in order to prevent the spread of Coronavirus during the Elections. KPU has requested an increase of IDR 500 billion budget for this purpose. “We will discuss everything related to Regional Elections later. We continue to monitor future developments – by “we”, I mean the Government, Election Organizers, and the COVID Task Force,” he said. 

Health Protocols and Democracy 

Meanwhile, KPU confirms that the stages of Simultaneous 2020 Regional Elections will start on 15 June in 9 Provinces, 224 regencies and 37 municipalities. KPU Commissioner I Dewa Kade Wiarsa Raka Sandi stated that this is regulated in the Draft KPU Regulation (Peraturan Komisi Pemilihan Umum – “PKPU”) concerning the Amendment to the PKPU concerning the Stages, Programs, and Schedules for 2020 Regional Elections. “The Amended PKPU has been harmonized on Sunday, 31 May 2020. It basically states that the stages of Regional Elections will recommence on 15 June,” he said. “The PKPU is created according to current health regulations, standards, and protocols for COVID-19. We are basically concerned with how to hold Regional Elections according to the principles of health and safety – not just democracy.” 

KPU will recommence Regional Elections preparation by reactivating the ad hoc Electoral Organizations, the District Electoral Committees (Panitia Pemilihan Kecamatan – “PPK”) and Electoral Committee (Panitia Pemungutan Suara – “PPS”). The elections will be held on 9 December 2020. 

To repeat, Raka Sandi confirms that inputs from relevant groups have been received and harmonized, so that the Draft Amended PKPU is ready for validation. It is ready to become a reference for all provinces, regencies, and municipalities holding the Regional Elections. Simultaneous Regional Elections preparations are necessary in order to ensure continued implementation of the Electoral Agenda despite the pandemic. True, there are risks and consequences relating to the continuation of the Regional Elections, including the budgeting necessary to ensure that each Voting Site perform health protocols properly (physical distancing, provision of face masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer). 

Other than the obvious physical and financial risks, holding Regional Elections during the pandemic actually stakes KPU’s reputation in terms of its ability to maintain the quality and credibility of Regional Elections amid a pandemic. International electoral observers will also pay special attention in view of the current situation. “Another political risk is that if Regional Elections are held in December 2020, there will be a large possibility that incumbent officials will withdraw from the competition, because regional heads will focus on mitigating the plague until everyone recovers. Legally, the Government Regulation in Lieu of Law concerning Regional Elections might be disputed if the pandemic continues to worsen. This will mean that any decision KPU makes concerning Electoral Stages amid the pandemic is vulnerable to legal disputes,” he said. 

Minimizing Efforts 

Lecturer in State Administration Law and Director of Satya Wacana Christian University’s Law and Constitutional Theoretical Study Center Umbu Rauta also mentions some of the risks faced when holding Regional Elections during the pandemic. “First, the Regional Elections will be held in an ambience of suspicions, worries, and fears. There is a large possibility of administrative violations by candidates, Regional Election disputes between candidates or between candidates and organizers, crimes, violation of code of ethics amid the organizers, disharmony between Regional KPU executors and the Election Monitoring Agency (Badan Pengawas Pemilihan Umum – “Bawaslu”), as well as disputes concerning the results of Regional Elections,” he said. 

Umbu then provided some possible efforts to minimize these risks: Providing education in politics and ethics to voters, candidates, and organizers; setting up strict and clear regulations; massive socializing of these regulations; and naturally the commitment of stakeholders. “During the Election , everyone – candidates, voters, organizers – should act according to applicable laws. Everyone must act ethically and with integrity, and we must provide massive monitoring from the people and strict law enforcement by the relevant forces,” he said. 

60% Victory 

General Chairman of the Functional Group (Golongan Karya – “Golkar”) Party, Airlangga Hartarto, expects that Golkar is the party most ready to face the Regional Elections during COVID-19 pandemic. The virtual era makes it easier for people to adjust to the current situation, and Golkar is the first party to make use of virtual communication tools to adapt. As Golkar is the party readiest to make use of the digital era, Airlangga expects it to be able to achieve its target of 60% victory in the Simultaneous Regional Elections. In the effort to achieve this, Golkar’s cadres must be able to adjust to new normal arrangements in politics. “Our campaign pattern has changed. We no longer mobilize our masses, but we hold door to door campaigns, and restricted town hall meetings,” Airlangga stated in the Virtual Technical Coordination Meeting for the Electoral Campaigns of Golkar Party’s Central Leadership Council, Monday (01/06/2020). 

In his written statement, Airlangga further reminds of the importance of effective use of information media and technology when campaigning. Therefore, he requests that Golkar’s Saksiku app, which was launched during the 2019 Elections, must be continuously upgraded. The right campaign methods in the new normal era will determine whether Golkar Party can achieve its victory target in the 2020 Regional Elections or not. Furthermore, this year’s Regional Elections are strategic when linked to the agenda of the upcoming 2024 Legislative and Presidential Elections. “There is no other choice than to get as big a victory as possible. Our duty is to prioritize and support our best cadres, those with the biggest possibility of winning the Regional Elections, as optimally as possible,” he said. (Dan)