Sunday, September 24, 2023 | 12:06 WIB

Ulterior Motive: Postpone to hang on to power

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

Humanitarian Cases 

In fact, a number of countries did indeed postpone their electoral schedules, ostensibly in order to protect their citizenry from potential COVID-19 exposure, in mid-2020, at the peak of the pandemic. This was reported in detail by Toby S. James and Sead Alihodzic, in a 2020 edition of the Election Law Journal, where the advisability of postponing elections during emergencies such as COVID-19 was described, as a “humanitarian case” argument for delaying such a mammoth effort. Countries recorded to have postponed their national elections in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic included Bolivia, Poland, New Zealand, Serbia and Sri Lanka. In most cases, elections were postponed when it became evident that their organizers lacked the necessary experience to ensure public health in the middle of a pandemic: elections by their very nature demand voter involvement and local participation, while urgent COVID-19 measures force individual isolation and the banning of crowds. 

In Indonesia, KPU did indeed postpone four stages of local and regional elections in 2020, shifting voting dates from September to December 2020. Election activists, mass organizations and universities, among other societal elements urged moving the 2020 elections forward to mid-2021. However, impervious to strong public sentiment, the Government stood firm, holding local and regional elections in 2020, reasoning that the authorities were obliged to stick to a democratic agenda, upholding the people’s constitutional right to vote and be elected: an election should not be hindered, even during a crisis like the ongoing pandemic. At that time, the absence of any precedent meant that there was no indication when the pandemic would burn itself out. Local and regional elections were actually hoped to boost regional economic growth, even during the pandemic. 

The Indonesian Election law does in fact stipulate when a postponement of an election is justified under the “continued elections and follow-up elections” section. Law no. 7 of 2017, Article 431 paragraph (1) concerning General Elections stipulates that should riots, security challenges, natural disasters or other impediments arise in any part of Indonesian territory, to the extent that such a phenomenon could result in the inability to conduct a proper election, the election may be rescheduled. Furthermore, Article 432 paragraph (1) states that in any of the above cases, preventing all stages of an election from being properly carried out, a “follow-up election” is to be held. 

In fact, it is quite clear that the Election Law does not provide an opportunity to postpone elections in anticipation, or based on a prediction, or as an excuse to maintain economic stability. The prime consideration in terms of any decision to postpone elections, as stipulated in the Election Law, must be in accord with the Constitution and within its framework. The 1945 Constitution of the Republic of Indonesia, Article 7 stipulates that the President and Vice President will hold office for five years, and can thereafter be re-elected for a further single term to the same office, which means that the tenure of a term of office for a President and Vice President is five years, no more and no less. Period. 

Furthermore, Article 22E Paragraph (1) of the Constitution stipulates that elections are to be held in a direct, general, free, secret, honest and fair manner, once every five years. The frequency of elections is specifically regulated by the Constitution, to the extent that a subsequent election limits the term of office of a President to just five years, with periodic elections to be held every five years following this. 


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