Minister of Home Affairs proposes asymmetrical Regional Elections

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Minister of Home Affairs Tito Karnavian again brought up the idea of implementing Regional Elections asymmetrically. (Photo: Prive. Doc)

IO – Minister of Home Affairs Tito Karnavian has again brought up the idea of implementing Regional Head Elections asymmetrically, in order to mitigate the negative impact of Direct Regional Elections. “Direct elections have both positive and negative aspects. The positive aspects include individual candidates and strong legitimacy of Regional Heads, because the constituents really did vote for them,” Tito said in the webinar titled “Why Do We Need Regional Heads?” held by Nagara Institute on Saturday (20/06/2020). 

On the negative side, democracy in a direct election system can be easily manipulated when implemented in pyramidal hierarchic societies. “Pyramidal hierarchic societies” only have a very few elite people in the high class, a modest-sized middle class, and a large number of low-class citizens, most of whom do not understand the importance of democracy, and are therefore easy to manipulate. “Our low class is poorly-educated and impoverished in general. Therefore, its members do not understand democracy. Regions that mostly contain low class citizens have leaders with undesirable qualities, as the citizens are easily manipulated,” Tito said. “It’s useless for Regional Head Candidates to speak passionately about their programs in areas with low democratic maturity. Citizens’ literacy and education are too low to understand the importance of the whole process. Therefore, the best alternative is to hold asymmetrical elections: Areas with high Democratic Maturity Index can hold direct Regional Elections, while those with low Index use another mechanism, for example having the Regional Representative Council (Dewan Perwakilan Daerah – “DPD”) and/or Regional House of Representatives (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat Daerah – “DPRD”) vote for them like we did before.” 

Tito believes that Indonesia needs a low-cost, low-conflict mechanism for Regional Head Elections. Direct regional elections can also generate many negative impacts on society, such as increased conflict potential, such as what happens in regions like Papua and Aceh. Furthermore, direct regional elections require high political expenditures, whether in terms of the costs spent by the State or what the regional head candidates must spend on witnesses and campaign. “Elections are good as a symbol of democracy. However, in terms security, they are divisive. We have legalized the people to divide themselves – they are divided according to their choices. Each choice contains a potential for conflict,” he said. 

Tito further stated that some regions in Indonesia have implemented the asymmetrical concept in regional elections. For example, in the Special Region of Yogyakarta, the current Sri Sultan Hamengkubuwono would automatically serve as Governor without the region having to undergo elections. Also, the Province of DKI Jakarta selects 5 mayors and the Regent of the Seribu Islands by having the Governor of DKI Jakarta appoint them. “Therefore, they do not bear the burden of Regional Elections and asymmetrical elections already occur,” he said. 

High Costs 

The Minister of Home Affairs said that the political costs or capital for becoming a Regional Head is high, even in the tens of billions. However, candidates should not think about achieving a “return of investment” from such an expenditure. That’s how corruption starts. “Some of my Regent friends said that it takes them IDR 20 billion-IDR 30 billion to obtain their position. It takes even more for mayors, and it is even costlier for governors,” he said. 

High political costs can turn into the root of regional corruption. The official costs include at least cost for witnesses, campaign team pay, and funds for campaigning. Even worse, there are still the “necessary” transactional politics for getting Party support. Money politics at the lower levels are also quite costly. “Consequently, are we sure whether Regional Head Candidates are ready to devote themselves, to make the necessary sacrifice? To remain free from corruption and forget these expenses when they finally get elected?” Tito said. 

In response to the Minister of Home Affairs’ statement, Chairman of DPR RI Commission II Ahmad Doli Kurnia stated that the DPR has prepared two alternative policies for following up on the evaluation of Direct Regional Elections plans. First, direct elections will only be held at regency or municipality level, while Provincial Regional Elections will be held indirectly. Second, Regional Elections may be held asymmetrically. 

Doli stated that the Government and DPR RI have agreed to hold Simultaneous Regional Elections on 9 December. This is an important part of the democratic process. He further stated that many considerations were made before this date was finally agreed upon, including considerations for health protocols. “We are tightening security of Regional Elections because it is being held during a pandemic,” he said. 

One Uniform System 

Meanwhile, Governor of Central Java Ganjar Pranowo rejected the idea because he believes that one uniform system must prevail throughout the country. “Are we really willing to be asymmetrical? The answer is obviously “No!” We really refuse. I’m sorry, Mr. Tito, but we must all have one and the same system – except for those excluded by law. And what are these? The “special” regions, the ones that require special rulings. For example, our friends in Aceh, in DKI, in Papua. The others are the same,” Ganjar responded in the same webinar. 

Ganjar emphasizes the importance of training our people in running a democracy. He believes that this is the responsibility of political parties: “So we actually need to train democracy and democratic processes. Who are responsible for this? Political parties! There are political parties, political aggregation, sources of cadre recruitment, after all,” he said. He also hopes that we can reduce the expenses for our Regional Elections. “If Regional Elections are costly, corruption levels will naturally be high.” 

Similarly, Vice General Chairman of Gelora Party Fahri Hamzah states that there must be a policy system relating to Regional Elections that prevent people from engaging in money play during the various stages of its processes. He also criticizes political parties for being power-oriented. “Political parties are idea fields, not engines of power,” he said. 

Candidate Governor of South Kalimantan Denny Indrayana stated that we need to have a legal system that minimizes money politics. He is even committed to not using political donations, even though it’s far from being easy. 

General Secretary of United Development Party (Partai Persatuan Pembangunan – “PPP”) Arsul Sani regrets the fact that hundreds of Regional Heads has been snared in corruption cases by the Corruption Eradication Commission (Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi – “KPK”). “119 Regional Heads have been caught up in these cases at last count, and that’s only the ones apprehended by the KPK. We have not counted the ones caught by the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Police,” he said. 

Elections Monitoring Agency (Badan Pengawas Pemilihan Umum – “Bawaslu”) Commissioner Afifuddin said that there are two major issues relating to Regional Elections: “The first is money politics, and the second is the neutrality of the State’s civil apparatus (aparatur sipil negara – “ASN”) in Regional Elections,” he said. 

Sociologist and social activist Imam B. Prasodjo mentions the importance of the leadership screening committee in political parties, in order to ensure that elected leaders are really qualified. He also links the issue of corruption with the trustworthiness of leaders. “We really need Regional Heads with actual public trust amid changes in society,” he said. 

In Control 

Earlier in a separate webinar, Head of the Ministry of Home Affairs’ Information Center Bahtiar confirms that Regional Elections remain controllable despite being held amid a pandemic. He believes that crowds of people will be able to follow well-planned stages. Furthermore, citizens voting at voting sites (tempat pemungutan suara – “TPS”) must comply with the health protocols designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. “The crowds in Regional Elections are planned and controllable. They are adults who come to TPS and participate in campaigns according to the law,” he said in the webinar titled “Organizing Quality Simultaneous Regional Elections amid the COVID-19 Pandemic: Substantial Issues We Need to Consider” held on Friday (19/06/2020). 

Bahtiar went on to say that Regional Elections are different from crowds in events held by Elementary Schools or Kindergartens, which contain mostly children who are difficult to organize. They are also different from public spots such as markets or terminals, whose control is much more complicated. The implementation of health protocols during Regional Elections is key in curbing further spread of COVID-19. Such protocols may also be part of the new normal. “We correlate Regional Elections policies with other policies. For example, markets, mosques, schools, etc. are reopened with special restrictions, this is the new normal. The restricted Regional Elections 2020 is also part of the new normal,” he said. 

Bahtiar further states that amid the current crisis, the people need legitimate leaders who are capable of proposing optimal ideas for mitigating the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. He believes that candidate pairs that usually capitalize on racial and religious issues for their votes will disappear, as the people seek candidates who will give them solutions. “If the candidate leaders pit good ideas and innovations for their regions among each other, it will be good and healthy for Indonesia’s democracy,” he said. 

Campaigns are Eliminated 

Executive Director of the Lingkar Madani untuk Indonesia (LIMA), Ray Rangkuti, said that Simultaneous Regional Elections 2020 amid the threat of the Corona virus will get harder to organize after the Government, DPR, and electoral organizers agreed that 9 December 2020 will be voting day. Regional Elections will understandably be more complicated and needs more serious handling. “The technical and substantial challenges when holding Simultaneous Regional Elections will be much harder,” Ray said in an online discussion held by the Indonesian Voters’ Committee (Komite Pemilih Indonesia – “TEPI”). “Most of these challenges are substantial, i.e. the higher incidence of violations of the principles of democratic elections. For example, there will be more threats, intimidations, and even violence in Regional Elections. These include bullying, slander, and insults. And to compound the problem, there are issues of vote or voter data manipulation,” he said. 

Therefore, Ray requests that Bawaslu and law enforcers to improve their participation in order to ensure the lack of threats or even violence in Regional Elections. Furthermore, a substantial issue is how to ensure that Regional Head Candidates are worthy, not just in terms of knowledge, but also in terms of morality. They must not have previous legal issues that might hinder them from exercising their duties properly, such as being convicted for corruption or drug use. “We must also avoid nepotism in submitting candidates. This is a major feature of Indonesian politics for ages. These are the main challenges in holding Simultaneous Regional Elections during COVID-19,” he said. 

Ray further urges that open campaign during the Simultaneous Regional Elections 2020 be eliminated in order to prevent the spread of COVID 19. “We should replace it with limited campaigns and debates instead,” he said. “Open campaigning causes more harm than good nowadays because they involve many people who crowd together and are hard to control. It is very easy to spread COVID-19 to a large number of people at once in these events, as it is hard to strictly implement the necessary health protocols of physical distancing, mask-wearing, and frequent sanitizing by hand washing or hand sanitizers. We should focus campaigning on conventional mass media or digital social media instead,” he said. (Dan)