“Perpu” and the impact of postponing the elections

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Titi Anggraini Executive Director of the Association for Elections and Democracy (Perludem)

IO – May 4, 2020: President Joko Widodo finally issued Government Regulation (Perpu) Number 2 of 2020, in place of a Law of the Republic of Indonesia. The detailed name of this Perpu is the “Third Amendment to Law Number 1 of 2015 concerning the Establishment of Government Regulation in place of Law Number I of 2014 concerning Elections Governors, Regents, and Mayors, or Perpu Number 2 the Year 2020”. 

The Perpu, better known as the Perpu on the Local Election, has long been awaited by post- KPU stakeholders, through KPU Decree Number 179 / PL.02-Kpt / 01 / KPU / III / 2020, postponing four stages of simultaneous local elections in 270 regions due to the Coronavirus pandemic 2019 (COVID-19). KPU is an acronym for the Indonesian General Election Commission. 

The stages of the elections postponed include the inauguration of Voting Officers (PPS), factual verification of the conditions of support for individual candidates, the establishment of voter data updating officers (PPDP), and matching and researching voter data. Thus, the polemic over the legality of delaying the postponement of the regional head elections by the KPU has been settled. 

Summarized, the contents of this Perpu on Local Election include three new clusters. First, a simultaneous election can occur due to the postponement of elections caused by social disturbances, natural disasters, non-natural disasters, or other disturbances which prevent stages of the holding of simultaneous elections to be carried out in the majority of regions or entire regions of riots. “Non-natural disasters” become a new provision that can be grounds for a delay in elections. 

Second, the determination of the postponement of the stages of the simultaneous election, as well as the implementation of the simultaneous subsequent elections shall be carried out upon mutual agreement between the KPU, the Government, and the Parliament. The mechanism is that the simultaneous election will be held after the determination of the postponement of the stages of the simultaneous election with the issuance of a KPU Decree. 

Third, the simultaneous local election in 2020 which was originally scheduled for September 2020 is to be postponed to December 2020 due to a non-natural disaster. However, if a simultaneous vote in December cannot be carried out, the simultaneous voting is to be further postponed and rescheduled immediately after the non-natural disaster ends. 

The postponement has an impact 

The postponement of the elections as regulated by the Perpu on the Regional Head Elections must exert an impact. If identified quickly, there are at least five effects of postponing the elections: legal, technical, political, social, and budgetary impacts. The following will describe the effects of the postponement of the elections. 

One, the legal impact. As a result of the issuance of the Perpu on Local Elections (Pilkada), the KPU must make adjustments to the legal framework of the technical electoral arrangements, especially concerning amendments to the KPU Regulation regarding stages, programs, and schedules of the simultaneous regional elections in 2020, as a revision of PKPU Number 15 of 2019 in conjunction with PKPU No. 16 of 2019 in conjunction with PKPU Number 2 of 2020. There was a shift in the voting day from September to December 2020 and also the timing of the pre and post voting stages was immediately shifted. 

In particular, the impact of the postponement of the four pilkada stages will inevitably result in a change in the timing of subsequent stages. For example, candidate registration, logistics procurement, and election campaigns. What’s more, the KPU is also obliged to regulate the mechanism of delay and the procedure and timing of the implementation of further simultaneous elections as instructed in Article 122A paragraph (3) of the Perpu on Local Elections. 

Second, technical impact. Logically, the postponement of the elections must have an impact on the technical governance of the elections. If voting is in December 2020, then the KPU must begin to prepare the stages of the elections in June 2020. 

This means that there will be a slice of the implementation phase with the phase of handling the peak of the pandemic and a period of large-scale social restrictions (PSBB); it cannot be ascertained when this will safely end. 

Carrying out the stages along with the peak of the pandemic requires support and strict discipline to fully comply with the health protocol of the COVID-19 pandemic by all local election stakeholders, starting from the election officials, prospective candidates and voters. 

For this reason, the KPU must formulate technical governance of the elections in line with the COVID-19 handling protocol, especially concerning the mechanism of interaction between officers and voters and election participants who are not at risk of spreading COVID-19. For example, how the technical procedures for factual verification of terms of support for individual candidates, verification of voter data, registration of candidates, campaigns, voting, and recapitulation following physical distancing policies, so as not to be exposed to COVID-19. 

This is certainly not easy, because the Perpu on Local Elections still relies on an approach to managing local elections in normal situations (without a pandemic/crisis), because the content does not make any arrangements for adjusting the implementation of the local election stages to be in line with the existing COVID-19 pandemic. 

Because this Perpu is still managed based on the provisions that already exist in the Election Law, the KPU must then be strategic and alert to respond and anticipate it. So that when the KPU carries out a technical arrangement that is coherent with the COVID-19 protocol: the arrangement made is not considered contrary to the law or exceeding authority. 

Third, political impact. The political configuration of the regions is very likely to change, as a result of the postponement of the election. Just mention the status of the mandate/recommendation that has been given or potentially given to prospective candidates, which is very likely to change due to changes in the electability or political position of political actors in the region. 

Further, the political consolidation of the candidates’ teams will take longer, because the pre-competition duration is delayed until December 2020. But of course this will lead to dynamics both internal and external to the candidate’s support team. 

Another impact is the growing need for financial support or funding for the logistics of prospective political work. Political costs incurred by candidates both to care for constituents and to maintain their electability are increasingly steep. 

Almost all political parties ask candidates to conduct electability surveys that are funded by the candidates themselves and this survey is usually carried out by survey agencies appointed by the party. Not to mention the fit and proper test conducted by political parties to the candidates, also resulting in additional costs that must be incurred. 

Such “high-cost politics” can lead to unhealthy and unequal competition for candidates who don’t have sufficient capital. This certainly threatens and can reduce the quality of our local democracy. 

It is different if the election is postponed to 2021. Candidates can postpone all of their political activities in 2020 related to parties or elections and can begin to concentrate on preparing everything for next year when the election stage begins again. They are relatively able to breathe and are also able to rearrange strategies and gather new funding sources. 

Fourth, social impact. Socially, the postponement of the elections can allow the community to appreciate the COVID-19 pandemic as a serious problem, because COVID-19 can result in routine delays of the five-year elections. 

The community also socially sees the postponement as a step taken so that all parties are serious about handling COVID-19; thus the simultaneous local elections after the postponement can be better managed without being disturbed by concerns about exposure to COVID-19. 

However, if the postponement of the local election stages turns out to coincide with the period of handling the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, it can also cause counterproductive social reactions in the form of skepticism, antipathy, and pragmatism of the people in the election process. People could consider political activities to be less humane when they are in a difficult time due to a pandemic that affects many aspects of life, especially the economic capacity of citizens. 

That is why the government, the Parliament, and the KPU should not neglect the psychosocial condition of the people due to the excess of the COVID-19 pandemic. Forcing the elections at the wrong time not only threatens the quality of the elections but can also reduce the reputation of the government, the Parliament, and the KPU in the eyes of the public. 

Finally, fifth, the impact of the budget. As a result of the postponement of the elections, extra budget support is needed to meet all facilities that are in line with the COVID-19 handling protocol. 

Some risks can jeopardize the health and safety of officers and voters if we cannot ensure the fulfillment of facilities and carrying capacity to protect them from being exposed to COVID-19 during the elections. 

Therefore, the allocation of additional funds to meet all facilities and needs that are in line with the fulfillment of the COVID-19 health management protocol is unavoidable. Call it, for example, the need for the procurement of masks, hand sanitizers, thermometers, disinfectants, and personal protective equipment. 

We learn this at least from the South Korean elections which were so optimal in providing additional facilities for election officials following the COVID-19 handling protocol set by their country, when managing their parliamentary elections on April 15. 

Additional funds are also needed to finance the stages that have previously been carried out but must be repeated because they are no longer meaningful/relevant. This is a consequence of the postponed local election stages which eliminates the value of activities that were carried out before the delay was made. 

For example, the socialization of stages, programs, and schedules that have been carried out before the delay, inevitably have to be repeated because of changing time frames and the substance of the post-delay stages, programs and schedules. 

Postponement of the elections after the issuance of Perpu No. 2 of 2020 must be anticipated in a planned and comprehensive manner. The setting of regulations on the implementation of local elections and various derivative policies, including budgeting, aside from being timely and realistic, must also definitely be in line with the needs of following the COVID-19 protocol. 

If the local elections cannot be held in December 2020, the KPU, as an independent institution, must have the courage to take a stand quickly, so that there are no legal, political, economic, or social losses incurred due to incoherent or ambiguous policies.