Ulterior Motive: Postpone to hang on to power

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Titi Anggraini
Titi Anggraini, Trustee of the Association for Elections and Democracy (Perludem)

Jakarta, IO – Chairperson of the National Awakening Party (PKB) Muhaimin Iskandar has issued a public statement proposing a postponement of the upcoming 2024 general election, just one week after the General Elections Commission (KPU) fixed a voting day and date for the event. 

The 2024 Voting Day had in fact become a heated topic, batted back and forth from the KPU to the Government and even the House of Representatives (DPR) for over a year. An agreement was finally sealed at the end of January 2022, one which stated that the voting would indeed take place on Wednesday, February 14, 2024. 

The General Chairpersons of both the Golkar Party and the National Mandate Party (PAN) had also expressed support for the proposition of a national election postponement, purportedly to maintain economic stability following the crisis aroused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Other justifications put forth to postpone the national election include concerns of potential civil unrest aroused by the election, the sizable expenditures for an electoral budget, the lingering specter of COVID-19 and a potential new eruption, and the performance of President Joko Widodo in public. According to this line of reasoning, postponing the election would allow the President, Vice President and members of parliament continuity in their service to the country, until a more propitious time, when definitive official election results could be delivered by the electorate. 

Read: The tyranny of elections postponement

By a curious coincidence, the proposed delay surfaced at a promising turning point, when Indonesia’s democracy index, appraised by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) in early February 2022, rose from 64th to 52nd place in world ranking, out of 167 countries. The EIU concluded that Indonesia’s “2021 Democracy Score” merited a raise, from 6.30 to 6.71. According to EIU reasoning, our fresh democracy, following Reformasi, shows improvement in the following aspects: government function, civil liberties and political participation. Against this, they criticized what were adjudged two stagnating aspects: the electoral process itself and “pluralism & political culture”. 

Foreigners are not the only ones revealing their optimism, as the certainty of an election day and enforcement of the rules of democracy will help to smother suspicions of a weakening of the democratic process — such as might be aroused by a “three-term presidency” or an extension of politicians’ terms of office. It smells like both a segment of the public and party leaders have crafted a mistrustful narrative that will divide our society. This is one tendency that shows how our political culture is indeed problematic, as The Economist took pains to point out.