Jakarta. The government has been urged to issue a new regulation to provide a legal basis to postpone the 2020 Regional Elections due to the continuing coronavirus pandemic.
The proposal has earned the support of the House of Representatives (DPR), the General Election Commission (KPU), the Election Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu), the Election Organizers Ethics Council (DKPP) and the Home Affairs Ministry.
"We need a regulation to give a legal basis for the postponement. There's no legal protection for the move if it was to be made now," the deputy director of the Association for Election and Democracy (Perludem), Khoirunnisa Agustyati, said on Thursday.
KPU chairman Arief Budiman had suggested three alternative dates for the elections, Dec. 9 this year or March 17 or Sept. 29 next year.
On Tuesday, DPR Commission II, KPU, Bawaslu, DKPP and the Home Affairs Ministry agreed to postpone the regional elections from the original schedule on Sept. 23 to Dec. 9.
Khoirunnisa said the regulation should determine who has the authority to postpone the elections nationally.
"According to the Regional Election Law, postponing an election has to be done per region. It's not the authority of the KPU. District and city-level elections can only be postponed by provincial-level institutions. Meanwhile, the provincial-level elections can only be postponed by the Home Affairs Ministry," she said.
Commission II chairman Ahmad Doli Kurnia Tandjung said a government regulation in lieu of law (Perppu) is the most suitable regulation for the postponement.
"The Home Affairs Ministry, the State Secretariat Ministry and the Law and Human Rights Ministry have already formed a team to compose the Perppu. We [the DPR] have discussed which points in the Regional Election Law should be revised in the Perppu," Doli said.
According to Doli, the regional elections would only go ahead once the pandemic has subsided.
He said if the elections were to be held on Dec. 9, the KPU resume the preliminary stages of the elections in June or July, after the Covid-19 national emergency ends on May 29.
Doli said out of the 15 preliminary stages, five have been completed and ten have been postponed.
"The DPR will discuss the pandemic situation with the KPU and the government in June. We will only allow the KPU to resume the preliminary stages of the elections if the pandemic has eased and the government decides not to extend the national emergency," he said.
"If the situation has not changed in a meaningful way, we will look for a new option," he said.
Khoirunnisa agreed the preliminary stages should only be resumed once the pandemic is over and people are safe from the virus.
"The situation might not be safe even in June or July, or even if the government ends the Covid-19 emergency on May 29. We should still be wary of virus resurgence for some time after the pandemic," she said.
Who Will Turn Out to Vote?
A researcher from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Arya Fernandes, said many voters will opt not to go to the polling booth if the government insists on holding the elections during the pandemic.
"Many people will simply refuse to go to the ballot box. Which would be a pity, since the participation rate in local elections in the past few years has been good," Arya said.
Arya postponing the elections will also affect the candidates' electability.
"Incumbents who handle the pandemic well may gain new votes. Meanwhile, previously unpopular challengers have more time to improve their chances," he said.
But an uncertain timeline for the elections can also wreak havoc with funding and logistics.
"Regional governments will also find it hard to reallocate their budget in response to the postponement," Arya said.