Moderating Regional Election schedule

Titi Anggraini Election and Democracy Forum (Perkumpulan Pemilu dan Demokrasi – “Perludem”) Counselor and Doctoral Student in the University of Indonesia’s Faculty of Law

 IO – The 2020 Regional Elections is completed. Currently, we are resolving electoral disputes at the Constitution Court. Naturally, there are many things to evaluate, whether in terms of legal basis, technical execution of the procedures, voter participation, or monitoring and enforcement of electoral law. 

Learning from the 2020 Regional Elections, we need to discuss issues related to the implementation of the next wave of Regional Elections. According to Article 201 Paragraph (8) Law No. 10 of 2016 concerning the Election of Governors, Regents, and Mayors, National Simultaneous Regional Elections throughout Indonesia will take place in November 2024. This provision implies that: (a) the Regional Heads elected in 2017 (101 regions) and 2018 (170 regions), whose term of office will end in 2022 and 2023, respectively, will not have Regional Elections in the region in these years; (b) Regional Heads elected in 2020 will only hold their offices until 2024. 

Provinces whose gubernatorial term of office is ending in 2022 are: Aceh, Bangka Belitung, DKI Jakarta, Banten, Gorontalo, West Sulawesi, and Papua Barat. The 17 Provinces whose gubernatorial term of office ends in 2023 include North Sumatra, West Java, Central Java, East Java, East Kalimantan, South Sulawesi, Bali, Maluku, and Papua. In order to fill the power vacuum, Regional Heads whose terms of office are ending in 2022 and 2023, Interim Governors, Regents, and Mayors who will hold office until the definite Regional Heads and Vice Regional Heads are elected or will be elected in the 2024 National Simultaneous Regional Elections. 

This 2024 National Simultaneous Regional Elections actually deviates from the initial regulation in Law No. 8 of 2015, which schedules it for the same date and month in 2027. In the initial law, regions whose Heads terminate their office in 2022 and 2023 would also have their elections in these years. 

There are several considerations for shifting National Simultaneous Regional Elections from 2027 to 2024, which means that they will be held simultaneously with the Legislative and Presidential Elections. First, it is to keep the nation from holding National and Regional Elections too frequently. This will help stabilize our economy and development, as there will be fewer political-related interruptions that tend to become intense. 

It will also help prevent political actors from “jumping the fence” during candidacy thanks to the different National and Regional Elections schedules. After all, members of the House of Representatives (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat – “DPR”), the Regional House of Representatives (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat – “DPRD”), and the Regional Representative Council (DPD tend to resign from their legislative positions to enter Regional Elections candidacy as Regional Heads or Vice Regional Heads. If elections for the Regional Executive and Legislative positions are held simultaneously, this can be  avoided. Furthermore, those applying for Gubernatorial candidacy, for example, cannot apply for Presidential candidacy, as the elections for these two levels are held at the same time. Candidates will be forced to select just one political office, whether at the Executive or Legislative branch, and cannot apply for two levels at the same time. 

Electoral Threats 

Despite these considerations, there are still significant electoral threats that Simultaneous Elections will be held in November 2024, in the same year as Legislative and Presidential Elections: 

First, excess technical burdens means that Elections will probably not be well-managed. Cross-discipline analysis of the large-scale deaths and illnesses among the officials of 2019 Elections performed by the Faculty of Social and Political Sciences of Gadjah Mada University (2019) found that the primary cause was extremely high workloads among Election Organizer Group (Kelompok Penyelenggara Pemungutan Suara – “KPPS”) officials: Before, during, and after elections day, five voting papers are required for the combined Legislative and Presidential elections! Multiply this with the number of legal voters throughout Indonesia and all over the world, and the need to keep them secret and safe and properly and honestly counted! Not to mention multiple technical, human, logistical, and health problems due to the staggering complexity of the entire enterprise! 

Even though the National and Regional Elections in 2024 are not planned to be held simultaneously (with National Elections generally being held in April and Regional Elections in November), the stages of their procedures tend to overlap. All elections must undergo various preparations: updating of voter data, candidacy determination, campaigning, and distribution of electoral logistics. Try to imagine the complexity of the entire operation, and the subsequent mental, emotional, and physical load they exert on officials. It is quite likely that the tragedy of mass exhaustion of the 2019 Elections will be repeated. 

Second, the politics of ideas will be driven even further away from voters’ discourses, as there are too many candidates and issues generated by the overlapping, simultaneous Elections. This encourages illegal campaigning in order to obtain victory, including money politics, identity hegemony, and hoaxes. This is ironic, as we hold National and Regional Elections in order to be able to internalize the candidates’ vision, mission, and programs, educating the masses and making their lives better. However, it will be hard to make this a reality because there is no focus or substance to most campaigns, which is in turn caused by the mixing of national and regional issues, because Legislative Elections, Presidential Elections, and Regional Elections are being held simultaneously. 

In the 2019 Elections, even legislative campaigns disappeared amid the hullabaloo of Presidential Elections. This seems to be the cause of the high number of invalid votes in the last Election for DPD members at 29,710,175, or 19.02% of the number of voters. Perludem’s evaluation of the 2019 Elections discovered that sub-optimal voter education and the lack of attention to the DPD Election caused voters to lack knowledge about DPD candidates or how to vote for them. Imagine how much more of a mess will it be if Regional Elections are also to be held simultaneously. 

Third, the Judgment of Constitution Court No.55/PUU-XVII/2019 that reversed the earlier constitutional stance of the simultaneous, 5-ballot Elections as the only constitutional option initially stipulated by Constitution Court Judgment No. 14/PUU-XI/2013 (23 January 2014). This reversal was made after having reflected on the complexity of the 2019 Elections. We should not increase the complexity unnecessarily. In the new Judgment, the Constitution Court reminds legislators to make the connection between the voting system and our choice to implement the presidential governmental system, the original intent of the creators of the Constitution of 1945, the effectiveness and efficiency of elections, and the rights of the people to make wise choices when choosing the Simultaneous Elections. 

2027 Simultaneous Regional Elections 

With the above considerations, in order to be able to organize a logical, honest, fair, and democratic elections, and in order to avoid the repetition of chaos and tragedy in our electoral democracy, the Regional Elections schedule should be moderated. The Elections should not be held in 2024. Holding them in 2027 is much more realistic and harmonious with the original architecture of our State administrations. 

Regions whose Regional Heads ended their terms of office in 2022 and 2023 should still hold Regional Elections in these years as originally planned. Heads of Regions that held Regional Elections in 2020 should proceed with their 5-year official terms as elected officials until the end. In that way, Interim Officials need not hold positions that formal Regional Heads elected by the people will hold anyway. Most importantly, we need to avoid a repeat of the wave of mass deaths suffered by electoral officials in 2019 Elections. Voters can also focus more on political ideas and programs, because the Elections will not overload them. 

Hopefully so.