Jakarta. New requirements applied to this year's regional elections could pave the way for the emergence of "puppet candidates" who run merely to boost the profile of other candidates, warned a political activist.
The regional elections, set to be staged simultaneously in 269 provinces, districts and cities across Indonesia on Dec. 9, have been short on willing candidates, thanks to a new requirement set in the Regional Elections Law, which bars serving national and regional legislators from running.
The General Elections Commission (KPU) has declared that as of Tuesday, the last day for the candidates to register their election bids, one area is still without nominees: East Bolaang Mongondow district in North Sulawesi.
Meanwhile, 11 other areas have attracted only one candidate: Surabaya in East Java; Pacitan district and Biltar district in East Java; Tasikmalaya, West Java; Serang district, Banten; Asahan district, North Sumatra; South Minahasa, North Sulawesi; Probolinggo district, Central Java; North Central Timor district, East Nusa Tenggara; the city of Samarinda, East Kalimantan; and Mataram, West Nusa Tenggara.
The elections commission has extended the registration period for these 12 regions from Friday to Monday. Elections may be postponed to 2017 should fewer than two candidates sign up by then.
But Masykuruddin Hafidz, coordinator of watchdog the People's Voter Education Network (JPPR), warned that several "puppet candidates" with no real chance of winning could emerge simply to prevent any further delays.
"Puppet candidates could emerge during this extension period due to some under-the-table dealings between political parties just to avoid postponement," he said on Wednesday.
"Whatever the reasons these puppet candidates may have, their nomination will lower the quality of the local democratic process."
Vice President Jusuf Kalla, however, dismissed such concerns, saying the government's tough new requirements would prevent such fraudulent moves.
"It's not easy being a puppet. But this is politics. It is hard to predict [whether such candidates will emerge] and hard to prove," he said as quoted by Detik.com.
A party-backed candidate must have the support of 20 percent of legislators in their respective regional council, while an independent candidate must have the initial support of between 6.5 percent and 10 percent of the region's population.
Kalla said it was natural that some elections would only see one candidate running.
"Take, for example, Surabaya. [Mayor Tri] Risma[harini] is so famous, no one dares to run against her. This presents a dilemma. Do we want to see real candidates? Or just fulfill the formal requirements?" he said.
Home Affairs Minister Tjahjo Kumolo echoed the vice president's sentiments, arguing that no one would be foolish enough to waste money and effort on campaigns and securing the support of political parties just to lose.
He added he was confident that elections for the 12 regions without enough candidates would proceed as planned.
As many as 705 candidates have registered their bids with the KPU, which still needs to verify their paperwork. More than 570 of them are supported by political parties, while the remainder are running as independents.
However, these figures could still change, as the incumbent district head of Barru, South Sulawesi, and Bengkalis, Riau, were recently charged in two separate corruption cases, potentially leaving the executive posts there vacant.