Elections Commission disagree on indirect Regional Elections

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(Photo: Prive. Doc)

IO – Functional Group (Golongan Karya – “Golkar”) Party politician for the Riau Islands Agustar is suggesting that indirect Regional Elections be held on 9 December 2020, in order to anticipate further spread of COVID-19. Instead, the Regional Elections can be held through the Regional House of Representatives (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat Daerah – “DPRD”). “I do not think that we can follow the original agenda for Regional Elections in 270 regions, as we only have 7 months left to prepare. I believe, however, that the electoral system that we can implement amid COVID-19 is indirect elections held through the DPRD,” he said on Sunday, 19 April 2020. 

Agustar further stated that Regional Elections can still be held on 9 De.cember 2020 if COVID-19 is successfully mitigated within the next three months. However, given the current conditions, the Government cannot guarantee this. If the disease is not mitigated by then, the schedule for Regional Elections will change, and this will interupt Simultaneous Elections throughout Indonesia in 2024. Regional Government leadership will be interrupted if Regional Elections are not held this year. 

Furthermore, the Government must consider whether or not it still has budgeting to spare for direct Regional Elections, as the economy has suffered badly in the past three months. Regional income has drastically dropped due to much lower tax income and levies. The COVID-19 pandemic has exerted a broad impact on the strategic sectors that the Government must handle, such as social network programs and the provision of medical equipment and paramedics. Many politicians doubt that it will be possible to hold Regional Elections with such a drop in Regional income. “Even though we force the Budget to hold Regional Elections, is it worthy to use it that way? I think that there are many other things that are more important to take care of, as we need to focus both Central and Regional Budgets on the mitigation of COVID-19,” he said. 

Agustar stated that the Budget required to hold indirect Regional Elections is much lower. They are much simpler to hold, but with compliance to both applicable rules and regulations and health protocols. It is not necessary to hold lavish Regional Elections amid the problems faced by the Government and the people, while the option to use DPRD is available. He is optimistic that the people would understand the necessity of holding Regional Elections indirectly – as it would also help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Voting Points. “If my suggestion is approved, the Government must also create a Government Regulation in Lieu of a Law (Peraturan Pemerintah Pengganti Undang-Undang – “Perppu”) for Regional Elections, which also regulates the electoral mechanism. This is a one-time thing that we have to do situational to COVID-19. However, we can return to direct Regional Elections afterwards,” he said. 

Responding to the suggestion of changing the format of Simultaneous Regional Elections 2020 by holding them indirectly through individual DPRD votes, the Election Commission (Komisi Pemilihan Umum – “KPU”) disagrees. KPU RI Commissioner Ilham Saputra stated that the Commission will continue to adhere to Law Number 10 of 2016 concerning Regional Elections. “It is improper, as applicable Laws still mandate direct Regional Elections,” he said. 

Furthermore, KPU adheres to the decision made during its joint meeting with the House of Representatives (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat – “DPR”) of RI and the Government: Simultaneous Regional Elections 2020 will be delayed to 9 December 2020. KPU is able to hold Regional Elections directly, as long as the Government and DPR RI validates the Perppu relating to Regional Elections by the end of April at the latest. However, Ilham admits that KPU is still unable to determine the latest development of the Perppu. “KPU has not yet been summoned to discuss the contents of the Draft Perppu,” he said. 

Agreeing with KPU recently, Governor of Central Java Ganjar Pranowo also refuse to have Regional Elections held through DPRD. “Indonesia seems not to have learned anything if we hold Regional Elections through DPRD. We did that before, we (Regional Heads) used to be elected by DPRD. We have discussed the issue and we have changed the method; now we use direct elections. If there is some flaw, let’s find it and correct it. But returning to the DPRD indirect election? It’s as if we have learned nothing from experience,” he said. 

Secretary of DPR’s National Democrat Faction Saan Mustofa agreed, further stating that we are stepping backwards if we hold Regional Elections through DPRD, as the direct Regional Elections system is implemented as a correction to the previous indirect Regional Elections through DPRD. “If our evaluation changes back Regional Elections to DPRD indirect elections, that’s a setback to the times of the New Order. That’s how we used to elect Regional Heads at the time,” he said in the DPR Building, Senayan, Jakarta, recently. 

A Matter of the People’s Sovereignty 

Emrus Sihombing, Executive Director of Emrus Corner, reminds us that our country is a democratic one where leaders are selected from among the people, by the people, and for the people. No matter what happens, even with the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping Indonesia, Regional Elections must still be held directly instead of through DPRD. “I believe that Legislative and Executive Elections must be performed directly by the people as the voters, not represented. If we do it through DPRD, does it represent the people? As we all know, all DPRD members are representatives of Parties, they are not suggested by the people or offered to them using the Party as vehicle, they are directly submitted by the Parties. In this case, the people do not have the power to submit members for the House,” he said. 

Emrus further stated that other than being Party representatives, DPRD members might actually harm the substance of democracy itself: Instead of being “from the people, by the people, for the people”, Regional Head Candidates would be “from the Party, by the Party, for the Party”. As long as there is money politics and corruption within the House, the members do not represent the people and they do not prioritize the people either. “Even though the pandemic might still last until the tentative date for Regional Elections on 9 December 2020, we must not ignore the people’s sovereignty. There is no reason why the spread of COVID-19 should prevent the holding of direct Regional Elections. Indirect Regional Elections have the potential of generating political transactions among members of the House after all,” he said. (Dan)