Government and House discuss Regional Election Law revisions

DPR Commission II Deputy Speaker from the PPP fraction, Arwani Thomafi. (Photo: Prive. Doc)

IO, Jakarta – The upcoming Regional Elections in 2020 have come into the spotlight. The Government and the House of Representatives (“DPR”) are seriously discussing revisions to the Regional Elections Law, specifically to change the Regional Elections’ system from direct elections by the people to indirect elections through Regional House of Representatives (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat Daerah – “DPRD”). Minister of Home Affairs Tito Karnavian stated that this change is being made because of excessively high political costs that candidates are forced to bear using current methods. 

Minister Tito stated that studies concerning Regional Elections have been made since the tenure of former Minister of Home Affairs Gamawan Fauzi. At that time, the Ministry stated that direct Regional Elections are more negative than positive, as money politics practices frequently occur. Furthermore, it is precisely because of money politics that many elected regional heads fail to implement their campaign promises – they are all too busy seeking ways to return the “capital” that their investors have “contributed” to them. 

Deputy Chairman of DPR’s Committee II from the United Development (“PPP”) Faction Arwani Thomafi stated that PPP has preferred that the DPRD oversee Regional Elections since 2014. Other than reasons of physical costs, having the DPRD perform Regional Elections would also reduce the political costs candidate Regional Heads have to bear. However, he urges that the Government consider the plan thoroughly in order to prevent the annulment of the resulting Law through Government Regulation in lieu of Law (Peraturan Pemerintah Pengganti Undang-undang – “Perppu”) as during Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s administration. Back in 2014, the Government and DPR agreed to change the way Regional Heads are elected. However, Law Number 22 of 2014 was greatly defied by the public, and ended up being revoked through Perppu Number 1 of 2014, later validated as Law Number 1 of 2015 under President Jokowi. 

Even though Committee II of DPR has planned to revise Regional Elections Law and included it in the priority National Legislation Program (Program Legislasi National – “Prolegnas”), PPP will not willy-nilly approve of the plan before the Minister of Home Affairs presents the results of his latest evaluation and review. “Any candidate regent or mayor should have capital of at least IDR 15 billion-IDR 20 billion, which will be quickly spent on political tributes to political parties, campaign costs, and the fees for witnesses for the vote count,” Arwani said on Monday (18/11/2019). 

Meanwhile, Deputy Speaker of DPR Azis Syamsuddin stated that one of the articles to be revised is the provision that a member of the House need not resign if s/he puts themselves up for Regional Head candidacy. He further stated that the House continues to discuss this issue as well as that of direct elections. “The suggestion that Regional Elections should be performed directly, and the suggestion that DPR members that become Regional Head candidates need not resign but must take leave – we are currently discussing these,” Azis stated at the Senayan Parliamentary Complex, Jakarta, on Friday (15/11/2019). 

Article 7 Paragraph (2) Letter “s” of Law Number 10 of 2016 concerning the Election of Governors, Regents, and Mayors (a.k.a. the Regional Elections Law) states that Candidate Regional Heads must declare their resignation as members of the DPR, DPRD, and Regional Representative Council (Dewan Perwakilan Daerah – “DPD”). It must be noted that in the 2018 Simultaneous Regional Elections, a number of DPR members put themselves up as Candidate Regional Heads, including Ida Fauziah from the National Awakening Party (Partai Kebangkitan Bangsa – “PKB”), putting herself up as the Candidate for Governor of Central Java; Viktor Laiskodat from the National Democrat (“Nasdem”) Party, the Candidate for Governor of East Nusa Tenggara (Nusa Tenggara Timur – “NTT”); Benny K. Harman from Democrat Party as Candidate for Governor of NTT, and T.B. Hasanuddin from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (Partai Demokrasi Indonesia Perjuangan – “PDIP”) as Candidate for Governor of West Java. All of them resigned from their position in the DPR for their Regional Candidacy. 

Betraying democracy 
Responding to the plan for revising the Regional Elections Law, Executive Director of the Association for Elections and Democracy (Perkumpulan untuk Pemilu dan Demokrasi – “Perludem”), Titi Anggraini, requests that the Government and DPR cancel the revision of Regional Elections Law, specifically by changing the system for Regional Elections. She stated that any discussion of this issue was completed in 2014 with the revoking of the Law that stipulated Regional Elections through DPRD by former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. According to her, Candidate Regional Heads need not bear huge political costs if their political parties do not request tributes, and if parties submit candidates with a strong mass base. “If there is no strong mass base, it is only natural that money is used to seduce the people’s votes,” she said. 

Perludem has long ago proposed to the Government and DPR that they should create regulations that limit campaign expenditures, strengthen accountability, uphold laws concerning campaign funding, and provide campaign funding incentives by subsidizing advertisement costs in mass media and presentation tool installation costs in order to reduce the financial burdens of Candidate Regional Heads. “The Ministry of Home Affairs should put its focus there – that is, on how to facilitate these instruments in order to ensure that the competition remains fair and honest. Cutting off Direct Regional Elections is not a solution. If there is such a gap in the conclusion, we will have to endure worse situations,” Titi said. 

She also said that if the revision to the Regional Elections Law is approved, the people as voters will lose their rights as citizens in determining who their leaders are. This is also a violation of democracy, which mandates that the people are the holders of power. “Accountability and transparency of the electoral process get murkier by the day, as major decisions are made only by a few people and we lack the people’s participation. Transactions are inevitable. Furthermore, the fact that DPRD makes decisions that do not comply with the people’s wishes will end up making the citizens apathetic towards established Government and refuse to support it,” she said on Saturday (16/11/2019). 

As for the plan of revoking the requirement that DPR members participating in Regional Elections must resign, she stated that it is a bad political precedent to the public. It is a gross contravention of a Decree of the Constitution Court, as it does not conform to constitutional legal procedures and does not have any valid legal basis. The Decree of Constitution Court Number 33/PUU-XIII/2015 has validated the stipulation of DPR, DPD, and DPRD members’ resignation as in the above Article 7 Paragraph (2) Letter “s” of Law Number 10 of 2016. “Whether anybody likes it or not, this Decree must be adhered to by everyone – including the DPR. If there is any difference of opinion concerning the essence of this Decree, the relevant parties can simply bring the Decree back to the Constitution Court along with new constitutional arguments that they consider to be stronger and more relevant and contextual for the present day – strong enough to overturn the Decree,” she said. (Dan)