House: Online campaign still needs testing

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Deputy Speaker of the House, Sufmi Dasco Ahmad. (Photo: Yoga)

IO – Deputy Speaker of the House (DPR) Sufmi Dasco Ahmad states that the effectiveness of an online campaign still needs testing, as it is a new initiative that has never been performed before. Furthermore, it is an important consideration to recall that not all regions holding Regional Elections in Indonesia have the same capacity for holding online campaigns. “In the current COVID-19 pandemic, we try to avoid meetings as much as possible, even restricted ones, because they tend to generate new COVID-19 clusters. However, we do need to test the effectiveness of online campaigning, because we have never done it before,” Dasco stated at the Parliamentary Complex, Senayan, Jakarta, on Tuesday (04/08/2020). 

Dasco further stated that even though analyses state that online campaign is effective in certain regions, it also goes to show that other regions need direct human contact to the people in order to assure them that the candidate they will be supporting in the Regional Elections will really crusade for their aspirations. “Because not all levels in Indonesia have sufficient capacity for online campaigns, because of limited internet access, limited internet credit, etc. We already set up a special strategy for Red Zone regions with limited internet access to be launched with Regional Elections. We believe that it will be effective,” he said. 

The Election Commission (KPU) is still revising the Election Commission Regulation (PKPU) for implementing the 2020 Simultaneous Regional Elections. One of its points is the campaign of Regional Head Candidates. KPU RI Chairman Arief Budiman stated that the PKPU revision is still waiting for a consultation meeting with the Government and DPR. “One of the issues that we are still revising is about reducing the number and size of physical meetings and to open up space for online campaigns,” said Arief to the press in the Office of Surabaya City KPU on 25 July 2020. 

Even though no decisions have been made yet, Arief stated that the campaign rules will consider COVID-19 zones, as infection condition in every region is different and changeable. All campaigns must first obtain permission and recommendation from the COVID-19 Task Force. This is already regulated in PKPU No. 6 of 2020. “Because when a region is a Red Zone, for example, the local authority cannot decide carelessly. But now they must consult with the Task Force first. Nowadays, the Task Force may simply not issue a recommendation. Therefore, face-to-face campaigns are not allowed,” he said. 

Arief reiterates that all Regional Head Candidates must strictly implement health protocols in all their campaigns. “For example, any face-to-face campaign must be held with considering the space’s capacity. The maximum number of attendants is 40% of the total space capacity. Distance must be strictly maintained, and personal protective devices such as masks and hand sanitizers must be used,” he said. “All violations will be handled by the Election Monitoring Agency (Badan Pengawas Pemilu – “Bawaslu”).” 

Bawaslu in turn hopes for regulations that will clarify methods of online campaigning amid the COVID-19 pandemic in order for it to be able to map out monitoring methods. “If the online method becomes the stated norm, we will need to monitor how people can access and enter online campaigning,” said Bawaslu’s Chairman, Abhan, at the KPU Head Office, Menteng, Central Jakarta, recently. 

Online campaigning is regulated in Article 58 Paragraph (2) of the above PKPU. This article states that “Political parties or political party consortiums, Candidate Pairs, and their respective Teams perform campaigning methods as meant in Paragraph (1) by online media.” However, the two articles have not regulated the implementation of online campaigning accordingly. Bawaslu needs to have clear regulations that it can monitor the substance of the campaign. Otherwise, we will not be able to monitor a substantial implementation of the campaign’s vision,” Abhan said. 

The Political Literacy Institute’s Executive Director Gun Gun Heryanto states that online campaign in South Korea helps the country to reduce mass gatherings, which would spread the viral infection widely. Online campaigning optimizes the use of creative and multimedia content. It may have been a supplementary move in previous elections, but it is now the primary campaign method during the pandemic. 

Singapore has also modified its campaign methods for its recent election on 10 July 2020. They strictly eliminated and prohibited mass campaigning, in order to prevent further spread of the pandemic. Parliamentary candidates were encouraged to hold online campaign by livestreaming. Political parties were allocated more time to explain their program, vision, and mission through national TV broadcasts. Candidates were allowed door-to-door communication with voters as long as they obey the rule of allowing a group of at most five people to gather in the second phase of their new normal. 

“The KPU should encourage campaigning through social media as a primary method instead of supplementary, as they did in South Korea and Singapore,” Abhan said. “It’s true that in many of the 270 regions holding the Regional Elections cannot possibly campaign through social media due to lack of internet access. Therefore, offline campaign methods such as restricted meetings, face-to-face meetings and dialogs, public debates, etc. whose physical and social controls can still be maintained by electoral organizers are still allowed.” (Dan)