Maintaining a healthy democracy: The younger generation must defend Regional Elections

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The younger generation to do its part in establishing and protecting democracy in Regional Elections. (Photo: Prive. Doc)

 IO – The public is paying close attention to the upcoming simultaneous Regional Elections to take place in 270 regions on 9 December 2020, amid an ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Any election involves gathering masses of supporters together in an attempt to attract public support – a very risky act during this time. Campaigning, with the momentum to collect hundreds to thousands of people, whether indoors or outside, will only help spread this incurable disease extremely widely in a short amount of time. 

Other than risking infecting the public, such crowds would also potentially imperil Electoral Organizers, if the Government does not provide up-to-standard security measures for Regional Elections. Electoral procedures in various regions – from socializing to selection and appointment of organizer staff – have already commenced. Nova Indra, member of the West Sumatra Regional Elections Commission (Komisi Pemilihan Umum Daerah – “KPUD”) stated that during socialization with citizens in the region, most are not wearing masks, do not maintain proper physical distancing, and they are offended when KPU staff do not shake their hands as part of the health protocol. “This is what we face on the site – on one hand we have great health concerns, but on the other hand we need the people’s participation. With the current conditions forcing them to maintain physical distance, I worry that their participation in the Regional Elections will drop,” he said during the online discussion held by Warga Muda Jaga Pilkada (“Young Citizens Protecting Regional Elections”) themed “Organizers Infected with COVID-19 – Will the Regional Elections be Delayed?” 

Nova stated that if any organizer staff member becomes infected with the COVID-19, Electoral Organizer Group (KPPS) members will be replaced by either members of the Electoral Committee (PPS) or District Electoral Committee (PPK). Under normal conditions, citizen participation is up to 80% for National Elections and up to 65% for Regional Elections. “If we continue to hold Regional Elections during the pandemic, citizen participation will most likely drop to 50%,” he said. 

In view of the pandemic and its possible deleterious impact on both voters and electoral organizers across the regions, Al-Azhar University’s political observer Ujang Komarudin urges Regional Elections 2020 be delayed to 2021. “We’re lucky if we get only one or two electoral organizers infected. However, in view of this disease’s malignity, it’s quite possible for a large number of organizers in a region to be infected. How do we replace them? We need a safe and effective replacement mechanism in place. Such replacement takes time. Therefore, we suggest delaying the Regional Elections to the Elections Commission (KPU) and the Election Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu). 

Ujang further notes that dynasty politics is rife in the 2020 Simultaneous Regional Elections. The fact that the children and relatives of the President, Vice President, Ministers, and members of the House of Representatives (DPR) are running shows that people with sufficient infrastructure, capital, and network are ready to push their candidates into victory. This is a worrisome trend. Ujang only hopes that this Regional Elections inspire Regional Heads who are good, independent, and truly care for the people, instead of generating political dynasty leaders who will only sully democracy. “If we allow this to continue, sorry to say, really good people will have a hard time winning over candidates with powerful backs. We must protect democracy from turning into political oligarchy in our Regional Elections,” he said. 

Ujang urges the younger generation to do its part in establishing and protecting democracy in Regional Elections, to ensure that these Elections are validated. “This is extremely important. If the young do not watch over it, Regional Elections will be rife with cheats and money politics,” he said. “I was a member of a Regional Head Candidate’s campaign team recently. A challenger was able to defeat the incumbent simply by spending IDR 40 billion, hard cash slipped into 1.5 million envelopes to 2.5 million voters on Election Day. This method would work even better during the pandemic, as the people are hard pressed for money and necessities, and they would likely feel no shame in trading their vote for survival. This has been going on for quite a long time – and if it continues, the regions will not generate good leaders that can develop their areas properly. In the end, the whole country will suffer,” he said. 

Ujang further states that it is important to get the younger generation to fight against political dynasties when determining the victory of Regional Head Candidates. Leaders who are appointed merely because they come from a certain political dynasty will only put the interest of their own dynasties (family and friends) before that of the people. “Political dynasties are still here because there are no rules against it. The only way we can win against them is: ‘Do not vote for them’. No matter how strong their network, resources, and infrastructure, it wouldn’t mean anything if the people get smart and decline to vote for them. Realistically, it’s hard to avoid money politics. Therefore, let’s gather strength through small communities like our discussion forum here today and agree to fight against money politics. Let’s spread the idea to the many groups who love democracy in this country,” he said. (Dan)