Electoral activists look for quick Electoral Law passage

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Executive Director of Andalas University’s Constitutional Study Center (Pusat Studi Konstitusi – “Pusako”), Feri Amsari. (Photo: Prive. Doc)

IO, Jakarta – A Panel of Judges representing the Constitutional Court (Mahkamah Konstitusi – “MK”) has decreed that Elections for the President and Vice President, members of the House of Representatives (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat – “DPR”), and members of the Regional Representative Council (Dewan Perwakilan Daerah – “DPD”) are inseparable from each other. MK’s Panel of Judges consider electoral simultaneity as stipulated in both National Elections Law and Regional Elections Law, intended as the “election for selecting the People’s Representatives at central level”, i.e. the President and Vice President, and members of the DPR DPD.

The Minister of Home Affairs has received a number of electoral activists in order to listen to their aspirations concerning the MK judgment. Minister of Home Affairs’ Acting Director General of Politics and General Government Bahtiar said that the Ministry has not yet determined how to respond to the input that they received. The Minister of Home Affairs is still reviewing each of the inputs. “The Minister of Home Affairs is listening. We will accord proper consideration to each of these comments. We have not yet set our position; we will do so later, after we consider your inputs in depth,” he declared, at the Office of the Minister of Home Affairs, Central Jakarta, on Wednesday (04/03/2020).

Executive Director of Andalas University’s Constitutional Study Center (Pusat Studi Konstitusi – “Pusako”), Feri Amsari, said that simultaneous Presidential Election and Legislative Election must be convenient for everyone involved. Therefore, Pusako suggests that simultaneous elections be divided into two sessions, i.e. one each for local elections and national elections, respectively. “The approach we want is how to make elections convenient for the public and electoral participants, including electoral organizers,” he said.

National Elections are performed by simultaneously holding Presidential Elections, DPR RI elections, and DPD RI elections. Local elections are performed by simultaneously electing regional heads (Mayors, Regents, and Governors) and Regional House of Representatives (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat Daerah – “DPRD”) members. He claimed to have submitted his input to the Minister of Home Affairs concerning the electoral system. “To put it simply, we are going to set a simulation from MK judgment concerning electoral simultaneity. From there, we can ascertain what might potentially obstruct the process of organizing elections,” he said.  

Feri said that even though MK has provided 6 models as options, DPR must consider many aspects before it determines which model to select, as future elections should not turn out ineffective or troublesome to organizers. “Lawmakers must also take this into account, not just grab any option blindly just because it is ‘constitutional’. Other than being constitutional, the option must also be workable to implement,” he warned. Therefore, he suggests that National Elections Law and Regional Elections Law be joined together into a single law package.

Necessary Revisions
Feri stated that the DPR cannot deviate from Law Number 10 of 2016 concerning Regional Elections when it revises Law Number 7 of 2017 concerning the Elections, as the revision of National Elections Law is included in the 2020 Priority National Legislation Program (Program Legislasi Nasional – “Prolegnas”). The sooner DPR concludes its discussion, the more time will be available for electoral organizers to socialize and simulate the law. “It is important to discuss this Law quickly because of time constraints. We can study it as soon as the Law is validated. Socialization eats up much time, while simulation is extremely important in mapping out issues, which in turn allows organizers to anticipate the steps that they may take,” he said.

Electoral organizers are requested to properly prepare for the elections, no matter what model they may adopt. Reflecting on the 2019 Elections, most of the obstacles can be attributed to preparation time being too tight. In fact, the National Elections Law was discussed too closely to the execution of the elections themselves.

Similar to Feri, Association for Elections and Democracy (Perkumpulan untuk Pemilu dan Demokrasi – “Perludem”) researcher Fadli Ramadhanil requests that the DPR and Government accelerate its discussion of the Revision to the National Elections Law. He believes that the discussion will necessarily take a long time, because the revision must conform with the points of the MK’s judgment on electoral simultaneity. As per the decree, MK has also suggested six simultaneous election models, each of which may serve as future guidance. “Therefore, we need a long time in order to be able to simulate these options, which include calculations for the technical implication of each of these simultaneous election models,” he said.

Feri believes that faster discussion means faster revision of basic electoral laws in turn. This means that electoral organizers and voters still have time to adjust to the new electoral system as stipulated by the Government. Perludem also suggests that discussions concerning Revisions to the National Elections Law also include a number of other, relevant regulations, i.e. Regional Elections Law, Political Party Law, Legislative Institutions Law and Regional Government Law. The purpose is to prevent the Revised National Elections Law from overlapping with any others.

Coordinator Indonesia Corruption Watch (“ICW”) Political Corruption Division’s Donal Fariz says that revision to National Elections Law should not simply target procedural issues. ICW requests that the Government also pay attention to improving governance of political parties. “We ask that the Minister of Home Affairs encourage improvements to the party system. We don’t want to fall into the trap of only improving procedural democracy and engineering electoral management when we organize simultaneous elections, whether local or national,” he said. “Party governance is a persistent problem in democracy. If we do not fix this, we will fail to achieve the intended output of why we hold elections in the first place – to elect high quality leaders with strong integrity. This is what we should improve,” he said.

Meanwhile, Chairman of the Elections Commission (Komisi Pemilihan Umum – “KPU”) Arief Budiman said that revising a National Elections Law must generate an economical and efficient electoral organization design. He believes that neither electoral organizers nor participants should ideally spend too much on elections. “I think it is important that we design the Revision of the Law so that it can formulate effective, efficient, and economic stages in organizing the elections. This must be prioritized,” he said in KPU’s Office, Menteng, Central Jakarta, on Friday (31/01/2020).

Arief believes that holding elections is not necessarily expensive. However, the current political condition means that elections are still much too pricey for both organizers and participants. For example, an e-catalog is available and would make logistical procurement much cheaper. Yet the Law has a requirement that KPU must fund the campaigns of electoral participants. Such funding includes for costs of creating campaign presentation equipment, campaign materials, and campaign advertising costs in the media. On the other hand, participants still tend to get involved in money politics because of great benefits to them and light sanctions.

Arief believes that if the sanctions for money politics become stricter, they would discourage violations. “If candidates stop participating in money politics, it would be cheaper for them. But if sanctions remain light, people will be tempted to try over and over again. Future electoral regulations must be designed in such a way as to become affordable for all,” he said.

KPU has also submitted four suggestions for the revision of the National Elections Law. It submitted these suggestions during a Hearing with Commission II of the DPR. “KPU has never actually discussed the Revision of National Elections Law with the DPR. However, we have submitted a Memorandum concerning which items in the National Elections Law we consider worthy of revision, in a Hearing,” he said.

The suggestions are: First, electronic summarizing (e-summary) of voting results can be included in the Revised National Elections Law. Second, there should be a ruling about making digital copies of electoral summaries. “Therefore, when the summaries are recorded in the blank C1 forms, we should take photos of those forms and deliver them to the national central tabulation server, and also to all parties,” Arief said. “This will make administering electoral results more effective and efficient, and avoid exhaustion of electoral officials.”

Third, KPU requests that regulations for recruitment in Regional KPU Offices be performed simultaneously and outside of electoral stages, as was the case, irregularly, in previous elections. Even worse, in some regions it was held right in the middle of the electoral process! Fourth, KPU requires rulings to regulate the verification of electoral candidates, and that such rulings should apply continuously.

Completion by 2021
Arief said that the Revision of National Elections Law should be completed by 2021, as the following elections are scheduled for 2024. KPU thus hopes that a revised National Elections Law can be completed by the end of 2021. All political parties must pass the 2024 Elections verification requirements by then. If it is impossible to finish by the end 2021, then it should be completed in early 2022, at the latest. “This is the latest it should get, as elections are to be held in 2024. It is too late if we are still revising the Law in 2023,” he said.

KPU Commissioner Pramono Ubaid Tanthowi believes that it is not necessary to consider all of the simultaneous election models provided by the MK, as some of these options are clearly ineffective, inefficient, or even downright impracticable. For example, the five-ballot election model. “Election models 1 and 2 are only viable when the KPU is proven to be unable to manage the event,” he declared.

The first option Pramono meant is where elections select the President and Vice President simultaneously, with members of the DPR, DPD, provincial DPRD, and regency/municipal DPRD. This model was actually applied in the 2019 Elections. The second option he referred to is the five-ballot elections that integrates elections for the President and Vice President, DPR, DPD, and for Governors, Mayors, and Regents. Looking back at the 2019 Elections, Pramono concluded that the five-ballot elections presents a great technical burden to implement. At the time, there were many obstacles, due to logistical delays. It is an onerous burden particularly for electoral organizers, for the officials who work at the lowest levels. “Administering the electoral process of this magnitude taxed the physical capabilities of some of our organizers. This even resulted in a much higher number of deaths among our officials than during the 2014 Elections,” Pramono said.

Other than these two options, Pramono believes that there is another option that we need not consider, i.e. that of holding a seven-ballot election. In other words, ALL of the elections are to be held in one marathon: i.e., elections for President and Vice President, DPR, DPD, provincial DPRD, regency/ municipal DPRD, and Governors & Mayors/Regents. “It may seem efficient, as we will only need to hold elections once. However, past experience shows we don’t need to even consider it,” he warned. (Dan)