The incumbent sways civil servant neutrality

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Minister of Administrative and Bureaucratic Reform Tjahjo Kumolo. (Photo: Rayi Gigih/IO)

IO – Minister of Administrative and Bureaucratic Reforms Tjahjo Kumolo has stated that we need to uphold and strictly monitor the mandated neutrality of civil servants during Regional Elections. This will ensure that both Regional Elections and provision of public service can be properly carried out. Minister Tjahjo hopes that the 2020 Simultaneous Regional Elections, which is being held amid the COVID-19 pandemic, can be held with adherence to both political ethics and health protocols. “The neutrality of civil servants is crucial,” he said in the webinar “Neutrality and Alert for the Politicizing of Civil Servants in the 2020 Simultaneous Regional Elections” held on Monday (10/8/2020). 

Tjahjo orders civil servants to show no partiality towards any Candidate Pair, especially an incumbent Pair. Electoral organizers and law enforcers must issue sanctions if any civil servant is proven to have violated such regulations. The Election Monitoring Agency (Badan Pegawas Pemilihan Umum – “Bawaslu”) must be stricter with its monitoring. “If any Candidate Pair, especially an incumbent Pair, attempts to move civil servants into a certain direction by pressuring their subordinates through their budgets, programs, or position, these pairs must be punished with strict sanctions immediately,” he said. 

Tjahjo further hopes that political parties refrain from pushing civil servants to leverage votes during the 2020 Simultaneous Regional Elections. The policy of maintaining civil servant neutrality is jointly agreed by the House of Representatives (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat – “DPR”) of RI’s Commission II, the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Elections Organizers’ Ethics Council (Dewan Kehormatan Penyelenggara Pemilihan Umum – “DKPP”), the Elections Commission (Komisi Pemilihan Umum – “KPU”), and Bawaslu. “We hope that in the 2020 Regional Elections, all political parties and Candidates are committed to refrain from manipulating their civil servants,” he said. 

Civil Servants Commission (Komisi Aparat Sipil Negara – “KASN”) Commissioner Arie Budiman directs civil servants to stop violating neutrality during the 2020 Regional Elections onwards, as this type of violation will only be to their detriment, and they will be punished severely for it. KASN asks for support and cooperation from all Central and Regional Governments in this case. Civil Government organizations should synergize in preventing and punishing violations. “Actually, potential failure in neutrality frequently occurs because of individual civil servants. Many of them fail to understand what “neutrality” is and what the consequences of failure to keep it are. They always say, “It’s dilemmatic being civil servants – you’re in trouble going forward, or going backwards, or when remaining neutral!” There really is no reason to stay with this way of thinking at all now,” he said. 

Arie states that neutrality of civil servants during Regional Elections is very important in preventing corrupt bureaucracy. Furthermore, there are many benefits for maintaining neutrality. Among others, Government targets can be achieved more easily, because civil servants are focused on their work instead of being distracted by political issues. “It also promotes a merit system in bureaucracy. The bureaucracy will become more independent, transparent, service-oriented, and accountable. This will in turn help civil servants improve their careers. And finally, the people feel that they are served fairly and satisfactorily,” he said. 

Bawaslu Chairman Abhan stated that incumbent officials tend to mobilize civil servants in order to win a second term during Regional Elections. This is because incumbent officials have closer access to civil servants than their challengers. “There is a greater potential for neutrality violation among civil servants in regions with incumbent officials. Naturally, incumbents have access to these workers, unlike non-incumbent candidates. The probability is even higher when the region has incumbent officials who separate from their union, or when a Regional Secretary who is almost retired put themselves up for candidacy,” he said. 

Abhan stated that 224 out of the 270 regions who are holding Regional Elections have incumbent officials. “Let’s see on 23 September 2020: Will these 224 incumbents submit themselves for Regional Elections or not?” he said. 

Abhan further states that civil servants must really maintain the principle of neutrality. “Why must civil servants be neutral? They must maintain their trust and responsibility as public servants,” he said. “The neutrality of civil servants is monitored by the Bawaslu, KASN, and the general public. We are intensively synergizing with KASN on this issue. KASN is highly responsive in following up any findings or reports from the public that Bawaslu receives. However, we have a regulation problem in terms of implementing KASN’s recommendation on the executor for this issue: The executors are the related Staff Development Advisors (Pejabat Pembina Kepegawaian – “PPK”). They are nota bene regents, mayors, and governors. When these officials are incumbents directly related to the case, how far will they actually implement KASN’s recommendation concerning neutrality violations?” 

Meanwhile, Election and Democracy Forum (Perkumpulan Pemilu dan Demokrasi – “Perludem”) Executive Director Titi Anggraini states that the neutrality of civil servants is even worsened with the existence of dynasty politics in all political parties in every region. “Therefore, there should be some regulations that reform political party institutions to prevent them from prioritizing familial relationships in political recruitment. This is important to do as a complement to amending electoral regulations proper so that the neutrality of civil servants is maintained. When we want to overcome the politicizing of civil servants, we should start by democratizing the elections from the top to the bottom, from reforming the regulations to the institutional organization of political parties,” she said. “The current bad quality of political parties is caused by the extreme frequency of these parties in implementing dynastic politics and involving civil servants in electoral campaigns. This is a huge contribution to the problem. To repeat, maintaining the neutrality of civil servants is inseparable from reforming our political parties. Our parties should be freed from dynastic politics, which violates the principle of democratic political recruitment.” (Dan)