The Jakarta Post

Politicking threatens 2024 elections

Proposed timetable could pose logistical challenges, disadvantage new parties

Yerica Lai

While the recently announced 2024 election dates have ended speculation that President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo will seek to extend his term in office, the ongoing push and pull over the election timetable has created new concerns about political interference in electoral procedure.

After almost ten months of disagreement over the general election schedule, the House of Representatives recently came to an agreement with the government and the General Election Commission (KPU) that the country would hold the next presidential and national-level legislative elections simultaneously on Feb. 14, 2024.

For the first time, Indonesia will hold this general election in the same year as its nationwide regional elections, adding a number of logistical challenges to the process.

Aside from the complexities of managing both elections in the span of one year, an ongoing tug-of-war over the stages of the electoral process has signaled increased political meddling in electoral procedure, and the additional rounds of discussion threaten to stymie the KPU’s preparations.

Disagreement has emerged over the proper length of the campaign period after the KPU unveiled a plan to give presidential and legislative candidates 120 days to court voters.

In a meeting with House Commission II overseeing home affairs late last month, Home Minister Tito Karnavian insisted on having a 90 day campaign period to limit political polarization. Some House factions put forward a shorter 75 day period, claiming it would make the elections more efficient, cheaper and safer amid the COVID -19 pandemic.

But the KPU said its planned 120 day period was already shorter than those of the nation’s previous elections, including the 15 month campaign of 2014 and the more than 6 month campaign of 2019.

“We have cut the campaign’s duration from 6 months in 2019 to only 4 months, which is a very risky move in terms of logistics and distribution,” KPU commissioner Pramono Ubaid Tantowi said earlier this month.

“We have made this move to accommodate many proposals with a variety of arguments. But I think it will be very difficult to cut it down further. So [the 120 day program] is still what we’re going to propose.”

Titi Anggrani of the Association for Elections and Democracy (Perludem), an electoral watchdog, noted that fair competition for all electoral candidates, both in the presidential and legislative elections, should be the key determiner of the length of the campaign season.

“If it is too long, it could put election participants with limited resources at a disadvantage. If it is too short, the established or incumbent political parties or candidates will have the upper hand, as the public already knows them,” she said on Saturday.

Election organizers, she added, needed to provide room for substantial interaction between the public and electoral candidates during the campaign period so that the public could get a sense of who they were choosing among.

The disagreement over the campaign schedule has raised concerns over the potential for additional prolonged rounds of debate over procedural elements of the elections, which could delay the passage of KPU regulations (PKPUs). These regulations have yet to be issued, even though political party registration — one of earliest stages of the electoral process — is expected to begin on Aug. 1.

The PKPUs will serve as the legal basis for the organization of the stages of the election. Although the KPU has the sole authority to set the general election timetable, the General Election Law and the Regional Elections Law require the KPU to consult the House and executive on every draft regulation before passing it.

Commission II will hold confirmation hearings for 24 candidates for KPU and Elections Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu) positions from Monday to Wednesday, leaving no time for another joint meeting with the executive to deliberate the PKPUs before the end of the current House session on Feb. 18.

Lawmakers say the procedural elements of the election will be deliberated after the House’s recess, which will end in mid-March.

“Discussions of the stages, programs and schedules will most likely be held at the next session or after the new KPU and Bawaslu members are inaugurated,” Commission II deputy speaker Saan Mustofa said on Saturday.

He said lawmakers remained optimistic that the PKPUs could be approved by June, claiming that the House factions and the executive had a great desire for the 2024 elections to be planned efficiently.

During the country’s last general election in 2019, hundreds of polling station workers across the country reportedly died, mostly due to exhaustion after working long hours to count votes and finish electoral reports.

Election observers have raised alarm over the level of interference by both the executive and lawmakers in the organization of the 2024 general elections, which has bogged down the KPU’s preparations.

“This is the first time we are seeing the government and lawmakers going too far in interfering in the organization of elections,” Network for Democracy and Electoral Integrity (Netgrit) director and former KPU commissioner Hadar Nafis Gumay said.

“The KPU is an independent institution. The government and the House can give input to the KPU, but let the KPU do its job.”





INACTIVE The Jakarta Post