The people are watching the Regional Elections amid the pandemic on 9 December 2020. After all, many did urge that this democratic event that involves 270 regions (224 regencies, 37 townships, and 9 provinces) be delayed. Expert in Indonesia’s Regional Autonomy Prof. Djohermansyah Djohan (“Prof. Djo”) proposes that Regional Elections be delayed to March, June, or September 2021. He suspects that the Regional Election environment will generate new infection clusters, as Electoral Organizers cannot or do not impose strict sanctions on violation of health protocol.
Furthermore, insisting on holding the Regional Elections this year will most likely reduce voter participation. “I suspect that the voter participation will come in lower than Election Commission (Komisi Pemilihan Umum – “KPU”)’s target of 70%. However, we really don’t want to have voter participation of only 50%. If it’s only 50% of the total number of voters registered in the Final Voters’ List (Daftar Pemilih Tetap – “DPT”), the legitimacy of the winning Candidate Pair will be in question, because they win despite having less than 50% of all valid votes, since the remaining 50% of voters do not go to ballots to vote,” he stated in a national convention held last week.
Of the 65 countries that have delayed their national or local elections, only 33 ended up continuing to hold elections as scheduled. And those reportedly saw low voter participation. For example, in France it was only 44.7%, in Iran 42.32%, and in Mali even only 7.5%. Yet why do the Government, the House of Representatives (DPR), and KPU insist Regional Elections still be held during the pandemic? It’s because many interests demand it so – the interests of supporting political parties, of the incumbent officials, of challengers, business interests, and voters’ interests.
Indirect Regional Elections
According to Prof. Djo, in order to allow 2020 Regional Elections to be held in December, while still ensuring safety from COVID-19, while amending the Regional Elections Law Number 10 of 2016 from stipulating direct voting into indirect voting through the Regional House of Representatives (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat Daerah – “DPRD”) is a viable alternative. With this method, elections need only be held up to the nomination of Candidate Pairs. KPU and Election Supervisory Agency (Badan Pengawas Pemilihan Umum – “Bawaslu”) need only do their job until this nomination; then the DPRD will take over. “Each DPRD should establish an Elections Commission. If this is what is decided, there will be no need to hold campaigns. That way, we can avoid the spread of COVID-19 infection that will take its toll on the people, the electoral organizers, and Candidate Pairs. But I still think that the first option, i.e. delay the elections until next year, is best,” Prof. Djo said.
Similarly, Regional Representative Council (Dewan Perwakilan Daerah – “DPD”) RI member Agustin Teras Narang (“Teras”) said that the DPD agreed that Regional Elections should be delayed, as the people’s safety is the most important thing. “We refer to the principle “Salus populi suprema lex esto”, or “The people’s safety is the highest law for any country.” We further note that Government Regulation Number 2 of 2020, later Law Number 6 of 2020, stipulates the possibility of delaying the Elections on 9 December 2020 in its Article 201 a, specifically in Paragraphs 2 and 3,” he said on Wednesday (24/09/2020).
Teras himself hopes that the three relevant components, i.e. the Government, DPR RI, and KPU consider this suggestion seriously, especially since Regional Elections represent an effort of the people to select leaders with real potential and integrity. He reminds us that the principles of Indonesian elections are “direct, public, free, confidential, fair, and honest.” However, the principle of “directness” implies that voters must appear at voting booths during voting day. Furthermore, maintaining electoral freedom and confidentiality would be difficult, as strict health protocols might rob voters of the true meaning of elections. “Therefore, DPD RI’s Committee I maintain its stance that Regional Elections should be delayed further from 9 December 2020 and be held in 2021 instead. This is the joint duty and responsibility of KPU, the Government, and Commission II of DPR RI, as well as that of regional electoral organizers,” he said.
Agreeing with Teras Narang, Nahdlatul Ulama’s Greater Management Council (Pengurus Besar Nahdlatul Ulama – “PBNU”) Chairman Emam Suryaman reiterates that PBNU requests that the Government, DPR RI, and KPU delay holding the 2020 Simultaneous Regional Elections. PBNU further states that the Government, DPR RI and KPU must take note of these three points: First, the KPU must delay Simultaneous Regional Elections and not hold them on 9 December this year. Second, the Regional Elections budget should be reallocated towards the mitigation of the health crisis and the strengthening of a social security network. Third, recall that the NU’s Great Conference in 2012 in Cirebon recommends to reconsider holding Regional Elections as it gives rise to many iniquities, including money politics.
Meanwhile, Indonesian Institute of Sciences (Lembaga Ilmu Pengetahuan Indonesia – “LIPI”)’s political observer Siti Zuhro said that the people’s enthusiasm for politics, including for Regional Elections, has shrunken, as a result of the people’s socio-economic shock, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of thinking about political activities, people are currently more occupied with their fate amid the pandemic. “The people are more strongly focused on survival and livelihood. The COVID-19 pandemic destroyed the daily lives of just about everyone. They are more concerned about the depressed economy and recession, which cannot be covered up any longer,” she said.
Other impacts of the pandemic include increased unemployment and poverty, and other attendant problems that add to the State’s burdens. “The map of political power has shifted, partly because the public has lost enthusiasm due to the harsh condition of living after the economy is hard hit by the pandemic,” Siti Zuhro said. “If we still continue holding Regional Elections during this emergency, I must remind everyone that we need to ensure the safety of the people. The 2020 Regional Elections stand as an important gamble for political parties. All parties want their candidates to win the Regional Elections. For them, victory in Regional Elections is a prerequisite for getting regions under their authority, and it is part of their political ammunition.