A worker assembles ballot boxes at a village head office in Depok, West Java, last year. (SP Photo/Joanito De Saojoao)

Hundreds of Civil Servants Fail to Stay Neutral During Run-Up to 2020 Regional Election

BY :TARA MARCHELIN

JUNE 17, 2020

Jakarta. The Election Supervisory Agency, or Bawaslu, said hundreds of civil servants have failed to stay neutral during the run-up to the 2020 regional elections by getting involved in campaigning for their preferred candidates. 

"As of June 15, we've found a total of 369 civil servants who committed what we call 'neutrality violation.' Around 33 percent involved high-level officials," Bawaslu chairman Abhan said on Wednesday.

He said the civil servants broke the rules by participating in a political campaign on social media, attending candidates' events or putting up campaign billboards and banners.

The top ten regional areas and government institution with the highest number of neutrality violations are Wakatobi district, Sukoharjo district, Dompu district, Banggai district, Supiori district, Muna district, Makassar, Bulukumba, West Nusa Tenggara province and the Education and Culture Ministry. 

According to the Civil Servant Commission (KASN), 195 out of the 369 violation reports have been followed up with 47 reports being verified. 

Bawaslu has signed an agreement with the KASN to investigate the violations and prevent more from happening. 

"The bureaucracy cannot take sides. We can't afford to have more of this violation," Abhan said in an online press conference.

The agreement sets out rules for data exchange between the Bawaslu and the KASN and should help in the prevention, surveillance, prosecution and monitoring of cases.

"We've agreed to develop an integrated surveillance data management and application. The most crucial thing is to improve data accuracy so we can follow up on cases," Abhan said.

According to the Bawaslu chairman, different campaigning methods this year – dominated by online activities and social media campaigns due to the Covid-19 pandemic – open up more loopholes for electoral violations. 

But despite the pandemic, Abhan said the government is trying their hardest to keep the elections free and fair. 

"The KASN should impose strict sanctions on civil servants who get themselves involved in political activities to deter others," he added.

KASN chairman Agus Pramusinto admitted many civil servants still don't understand the importance of neutrality in elections. 

"Governors, mayors and district heads have to understand they are not allowed to get civil servants involved in politics," he said.

Abhan meanwhile said civil servants should not be swayed by political interests and focus on providing the best public service possible.

Abhan also appealed to candidates in this year's elections to refrain from changing jobs at least six months before the General Election Commission (KPU) announced their run officially. 

"The candidates will be announced on Sept. 23, so they should not change jobs after March 23 unless they get permission to do so from the Home Affairs Ministry. Also, if they take advantage of government programs, such as the Covid-19 relief package, for their political interests, they will be charged with crimes and disqualified from the election," Abhan said.

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