Elections Commission ponders online Regional Elections campaign amid the Pandemic

Elections Commission (Komisi Pemilihan Umum – “KPU”)Chairman Arief Budiman stated that KPU will start fact verification of support for individual candidates on 24 June. (Photo: Prive. Doc)

IO – The process for the Regional Elections, which will be held simultaneously on 9 December 2020, started on 15 June. For starters, the Central Elections Commission (Komisi Pemilihan Umum – “KPU”) has issued circulars for all levels of Regional KPU to perform the necessary health protocol to avoid transmission of COVID-19, starting from the campaign. KPU Chairman Arief Budiman stated that KPU will start the fact verification of support for individual candidates on 24 June. Central KPU warns provincial, regency, and municipal KPU to carefully and thoroughly learn the various validated regulations in order to be able to implement them properly. In this first stage, KPU requires logistics for June and July, in the form of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) for members of the district Electoral Committees (Panitia Pemilihan Kecamatan – “PPK”) and the Central Electoral Committee (Panitia Pemungutan Suara – “PPS”). 

Arief stated that the decision to hold Regional Elections has been agreed jointly by the KPU, the Government, and the House of Representatives (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat – “DPR”). There are three options for holding the Regional Elections: September 2020, December 2020, or March 2021. KPU must be ready because no other option is available. Three requirements for the 2020 Regional Elections must be ready despite the COVID-19 pandemic: “First, the regulations are set. Second, HR is prepared. This is true for Provincial, Regency, and Municipal KPU, down to PPK and PPS level. Third, KPU’s budget is passed. The IDR 4.7 trillion-budget has been approved in a meeting with the DPR, and is being liquidated in three stages,” he stated in the 2020 Elections for the People Webinar titled “Simultaneous Elections Amid the Pandemic” held on Tuesday (16/06/2020). 

As Chairman of KPU, Arief confirms that Regional Elections on 9 December 2020 will be performed physically, not online. Directly holding Elections in Voting Booths is regulated in Law Number 10 of 2016. “The Elections will still be held offline because it is regulated by law. None of the Articles in Law Number 10 of 2016 is being revoked,” he said. 

Online Campaign 

However, KPU will impose some restrictions on mass gatherings such as open campaign meetings and public meetings. These restrictions are adjusted to the level that applies in both Central Government and Regional Levels, such as the Large-Scaled Social Restriction (Pembatasan Sosial Berskala Besar – “PSBB”) policy. KPU also plans to extend the duration of the campaign period for Regional Head candidates, through both electronic mass media and online, exploiting social media. This is due to the restriction of physical campaigns because of health protocols aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19. “We are thinking about how to campaign using online media, electronic media – whether social media, television, radio, or broadcast media. We are thinking of increasing the duration. We are still discussing frequency-related issues,” he said. 

KPU will implement health protocols to prevent COVID-19 from spreading through campaigns. “We will be regulating the issue in detail, maybe using KPU Regulations or more detailed procedures in the field with the KPU Technical Direction. For example, a meeting room with a capacity of 50 persons can only be filled with 25. This does not include specific regulations for regions that implement PSBB, as naturally meetings must comply with PSBB policies,” Arief said. 

Similarly, Chairman of the Election Monitoring Agency (Badan Pengawas Pemilu – “Bawaslu”) RI, Abhan, stated that online campaigning is not a new issue. It is regulated in the Regional Elections Law. Online campaigning was limited in past Regional Elections. However, KPU can add to the duration and/or frequency of online campaigning to adjust to COVID-19 pandemic. “Previously, only 10 Candidates had social media accounts, and only a few had TV appearances. Are we increasing this? But basically, we are ready to perform monitoring duties when conventional methods are changed to adjust to the pandemic,” he said. 

Regional Budget Funds 

Special Staff of the Minister of Home Affairs Kastorius Sinaga stated that holding a democratic process amid COVID-19 pandemic will show the world Indonesia’s maturity as a democratic nation. Indonesia is not the only country that intends to hold an election during the pandemic. The decision to hold the 2020 Simultaneous Regional Elections should not be viewed from a political aspect only. It will also affect economic recovery, as a safe and smooth election will convince investors. “We want to show that we are capable of holding elections amid COVID-19 attacks like other countries do. We note that 47 countries continue to hold their elections, whether Presidential, Legislative, Local, or Preliminary. Therefore, we know that it is possible,” he said. 

Kastorius admits that a small number of Regional Governments face challenges in allocating electoral budgets, due to fiscal restrictions. Therefore, the Ministry of Home Affairs coordinates, directs, and accompanies these Regional Governments in order to ensure the smoothness of fund allocation for the Regional Elections. “In our current situation, we understand that several Regional Governments may be facing fiscal challenges. However, the Ministry of Home Affairs continues to coordinate with Regional Governments and other stakeholders of Regional Elections on all levels, including with KPU, to ensure that we obtain information about what the Regions need. They are cooperative for the most part,” he said. 

Kastorius emphasizes that Regional Elections are funded by Re˝ˇgional Budgets. However, as health protocol is necessary to ensure the safety of Regional Elections from COVID-19, the Central Government will be increasing the budget. “The process is ongoing. It is nearing completion. We note that 15 regencies and municipalities in both the Center and the Region have suffered from limited fiscal capacity due to reduced income. We are mitigating this by reallocating Regional Budgets and get help from the Center,” he said. 

Kastorius stated that there are several regulations and strategies that must be explained in order to ensure Regional Governments that Regional Election funds must be immediately distributed in order for the Elections to start. “We need to socialize this to Regional Governments, but we have given them direction and accompaniment. Only several regions require further assistance. None of the Regions have been uncooperative. We are assisting the Regional Governments in seeing which items in the Regional Budget that we can allocate more effectively to allow for Regional Elections. We know that each region has different statuses concerning the COVID-19 disaster. Therefore, we must assist them to make sure that their budgets are distributed more efficiently,” he said. (dan)