Minister of Home Affairs presents two options for Regional Elections

Minister of Home Affairs Tito Karnavian. (Photo: PinterPolitik)

IO – Several prominent figures have requested that the Government reconsider the organization of simultaneous Regional Elections in 270 regions (9 provinces, 224 regencies, and 37 townships) on 9 December 2020. They include former Vice President Jusuf Kalla; General Chairman of the Nahdlatul Ulama’s Greater Management Council (Pengurus Besar Nahdlatul Ulama – “PBNU”), Said Aqil Siroj; and General Secretary of the Indonesian Ulema Council (Majelis Ulama Indonesia – “MUI”), Anwar Abbas. “I believe that the Elections Commission (Komisi Pemilihan Umum – “KPU”) must set requirements for gatherings or something similar. If these requirements are violated, say that only a maximum of 50 (persons) is allowed to gather in a campaign, but 200 (persons) show up. If there is a tendency for this, we really should reconsider the timing,” JK said on Saturday (19/09/2020).

This warning is not unreasonable. Despite existing health protocol regulations for Regional Elections, in practice these rules are frequently violated. This is because they are not strict and clear enough, and they contain loop-holes that actually present an opportunity for Coronavirus infections. In fact, even though we have not even gone halfway through the stages of the Regional Elections, a number of organizers have already been infected by COVID-19. The Election Supervisory Agency (Badan Pengawas Pemilu – “Bawaslu”) recorded 243 suspected violations of COVID-19 prevention health protocols through the Regional Elections Candidate Registration period on 4-6 September.

Bawaslu’s General Chairman, Abhan, stated that 96 ad hoc electoral monitors in the Regency of Boyolali, Central Java, were found to be COVID-19 positive after having taken part in the monitoring of the match and verification process during the updating of voter data for the 2020 Regional Elections. KPU member Evi Novida Ginting, KPU commissioner Pramono Ubaid Tanthowi, and even KPU General Chairman Arief Budiman were all declared positive for COVID19 infection.

In response to the advisory that Regional Head Elections be delayed in view of the current COVID-19 pandemic, Minister of Home Affairs Tito Karnavian stated that he has prepared two options that are currently being discussed. First, to issue a Government Regulation in lieu of a Law that regulates the handling and law enforcement of health protocol violations throughout the Regional Elections. “This Government Regulation in lieu of Law will regulate the entirety of the COVID-19 issue, from its prevention, mitigation, and law enforcement for violations relating to it. It specifically regulates COVID protocols for both Regional Elections and Village Headman Elections. This is because there are no regulations that specifically cover COVID-19 right now,” he said in a webinar held on Sunday (20/09/2020).

Tito’s proposed second option being discussed by the Government is a revision of KPU Regulations that regulate the stages of Regional Elections 2020. However, delaying 2020 Regional Elections further is not an option. “Whether creating a new Government Regulation in lieu of Law or revising the KPU Regulation, we need to do this at once. We need everyone’s support in creating this regulation properly, because it is not the sole responsibility of the Minister of Home Affairs. I only facilitate the issue. KPU itself must be the primary caretaker of this matter, with the approval of the House of Representatives’ Commission II. KPU itself holds the key,” he said. 

Griffith University epidemiologist Dicky Budiman earlier warned that the 2020 Regional Elections had the potential of becoming a time bomb, as there are many health protocol violations occurring even during the registration for Regional Elections and as existing rules still have loopholes concerning activities that involve mass gatherings. “It’s only a matter of time before the number of cases explodes, especially in regions with low testing intervention rate. We need to take anticipatory measures – let’s not allow this celebration of democracy turn into a COVID-19 memorial because of ignored preventive protocols,” he said.

Similarly, epidemiologist from University of Indonesia’s Faculty of Community Health Iwan Ariawan states that direct campaigns will cause a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases in Indonesia. “Holding Regional Elections with direct campaigning will significantly increase the number of new COVID-19. It will further increase the peak of the curve and extend the duration of the epidemic,” he said in Indonesian Rural Satellite Cooperative (Koperasi Satelit Desa Indonesia – “KSDI”)’s Series 2 National Webinar “Strategies for Lowering COVID-19 and Raising the Economy” held through KSDI’s YouTube account on Sunday (20/09/2020).

Iwan further stated that in any direct campaign that gathers 100 persons at the same time, there will always be persons unknowingly infected with the Coronavirus among them. These infected persons will infect others, at least those who came into direct or close contact with them. “If 100 persons gather in the same place at the same time nowadays, with a COVID-19 prevalence of 5% of the population, the possibility of at least one person already infected with COVID-19 being among them is 99%. The speed of COVID-19 (beta) infection is 0.2 per each infection case a day. Therefore, if 100 persons and 10 infected persons mix among them (a prevalence rate of 10%), each of them will infect 2 other persons if health protocols are not observed,” he said. 

On the other hand, Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (Partai Demokrasi Indonesia Perjuangan – “PDIP”)’s General Secretary, Hasto Kristiyanto, insists that Simultaneous Regional Elections must be held this year, even during the COVID-19 pandemic, even with positive infection rate climbing every day. According to him, amid the pandemic, all leaders must obtain the proper mandate from the people in order to run the Government legally. “Delaying Regional Elections amid the pandemic will actually generate more uncertainty and anxiety, as the current tenure of Regional Heads is ending in February,” Hasto stated in his written statement on Sunday (20/09/2020) night. 

Hasto states that the end of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts is uncertain. Therefore, he reiterates that “If Regional Elections is delayed, the position of Regional Heads must be held by acting officials. This should not be allowed to happen during such a crisis as we are facing. All political positions must be legitimized and legalized by the people. Holding the Regional Elections on 9 December will actually generate certainty that we are selecting strong leaders, leaders who have solid COVID-19 mitigation and prevention programs that the people can support,” he said.  (Dan)