Tuesday, April 16, 2024 | 15:06 WIB

Indonesia’s 2024 election: a first-hand insight

Jakarta, IO – Indonesia recently concluded its day of election, on February 14, 2024. However, akin to a series of movies, each post-election period invariably raises potential doubts about the credibility of the electoral process, particularly from the aspect of losing candidates, and especially in cases where there may be inaccuracies in the counting mechanisms. The General Election Commission (KPU) has identified discrepancies in the vote count, as reported in Form C from 2,325 polling stations (TPS). While these discrepancies may seem minor among the approximately 800,000 TPS nationwide, they should prompt authorities to contemplate a revised counting mechanism, allowing a more transparent manner. 

Furthermore, elections in Indonesia even result in injury or loss of life – especially during the last two elections. The Ministry of Health (Kemenkes) has recorded that the number of KPPS personnel who have passed away has reached 114 cases, as of Tuesday 27 February 2024. While “lower” may seem inappropriate word to convey sorrow, this year’s death toll is lower than that of the previous election, which resulted in a tragic loss of 894 KPPS personnel. 

I feel incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to participate firsthand in this year’s election. I was honored to serve as the head of the KPPS in my neighborhood. Furthermore, I am fortunate that my team is mostly made up of young professionals eager to gain experience in these challenging roles, representing diverse fields within the financial sector, including banking, insurance, mining, and entrepreneurship. Additionally, in terms of education, most of us are graduates of prestigious schools in Indonesia, such as UI, UGM, and ITB. 

However, I can confirm that being part of KPPS involves pressing tasks, especially considering that this year’s election was somewhat a hybrid one, with manual and digital processes intertwined. This allowed us to reflect on how the process unfolded in areas where human capacity is limited and technological support, such as the internet, may not be readily available. 

Ibrahim Kholilul Rohman
Ibrahim Kholilul Rohman, Head of KPPS 15, Parigi Village, Tangerang Selatan, Banten

Firstly, this election was physically demanding, which may provide insight into why there are often fatalities. The time required to complete the election calculations varied greatly. In the case of our TPS, our team began preparing at 5 a.m. and concluded at 2 a.m. the following day. We worked continuously for 21 hours, with only brief breaks for meals and prayers. While this was already strenuous, we were among the 11th TPS out of 57 to finish when we returned the ballot box to the village-level election center. Some TPS finished as late as 12 p.m. the following day, meaning they worked for at least 30 hours under constant pressure. 

The election process, particularly concerning legislative elections, is notably intricate. It involves tasks such as calculating votes for 18 parties on 22 large plano-pages, transcribing results onto smaller A4 pages (C paper), duplicating them for party witnesses and supervisors, and manually affixing signatures to each single page of plano and A4, including both the original and the copies. 

To illustrate, in the case of legislative elections, each member of the team is required to sign around 100 times – assuming there are 10 witnesses representing parties and the supervisor. This entire process is then replicated for provincial and district-level legislative elections. Thus, for three legislative elections, each member of the team might manually sign off at least 300 times. This excludes paperwork for the president and DPD, which are simpler in comparison. 

Misinterpretation poses another challenge, especially when considering the large number of parties and candidates involved in the election. The narrow design of the candidate box on the ballot paper can sometimes make it difficult to accurately determine votes. When a vote is inadvertently placed precisely on the line between two candidates, validating it can become a time-consuming task – as a millimeter difference up or down could potentially alter the outcome. 

As the night progresses, the process demands more heightened concentration. After 15-18 hours, fatigue sets in, increasing the likelihood of errors. Despite the presence of witnesses and supervisors, fatigue can lead to oversight, especially when attempting to precisely locate the hole in the nearly half-meter-wide ballot paper. 

Furthermore, these manual processes are scanned by the National Election Committee (KPU) through their application called “Sirekap”. However, this process may not always proceed smoothly. Handwriting standards vary, and the application may not accurately recognize different types of handwritten numbers, resulting in discrepancies. Adding to the complexities, in our case, Sirekap was practically non-functional until Maghrib time on election day, causing delays in reporting the already-completed presidential ballots. This occurred despite being in the Jakarta area, where internet connection has generally been superb. 

Ironically, on the following day, February 15th, after a night of malfunctioning, we received notification from the KPU that our form submitted for the district legislative election (DPRD 1 and 2) was rejected by Sirekap, on account of issues with picture clarity. Sirekap does not permit the use of stored gallery photos; instead, it requires photos to be taken directly on that half-meter plano paper. Since all ballot boxes had already been sealed and submitted to the village-level election committee, we were not able to rectify the error. This might have become a source of delay in reporting if the same phenomenon were to occur at the aggregate level. 

Given the aforementioned challenges, the short-term solution for future elections should emphasize IT preparedness, to ensure it facilitates the election process, rather than hindering it. Stress testing may need to be implemented to ensure the system remains operational when 800,000 TPS access it simultaneously. 

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When the IT system has been ensured as solid, transitioning to e-voting may become a long-term goal, as it can improve efficiency, accessibility, and accuracy, by streamlining the process and enabling remote voting, thereby increasing participation rates and safeguarding the integrity of election results. When implemented effectively, it also ensures transparency and security, potentially leading to cost savings. 

However, it is worth noting that studies, such as those conducted by Magdalena Musial-Karg in 2014, have shown the effectiveness of e-voting in countries which like Estonia and Switzerland, while also outlining challenges encountered in other European countries. This underscores the importance of careful consideration and thorough evaluation before implementing e-voting systems.