Indonesia Local Election in the middle of a Pandemic


Amid the unfinished war on the COVID-19, the Government of Indonesia shouted for making peace with this situation and launched a new chapter called “new normal”, likewise, with the celebration of local democracy, which will continue to be held at the end of this year despite the uncertainty of the last pandemic.

The abudance of reaction and rejection come toward Indonesia concurrent local elections in 270 regions. Various speculations also emerged, ranging from the ineffectiveness of the concurrent local elections, the threat of taking many victims due to contagion, which might be caused by crowds during the campaign and election day, and the budget issue swell because they had to adjust to health protocols. Whereas at present, the Indonesian economy is experiencing a deep contraction evidenced by the economic growth that has fallen slightly from quarter to quarter until 2020.

Suffrage rights vs. Health rights

As known, Indonesia is the forth largest population, which also practice democracy. Indonesia is also prominent as one of country in the globe which quite success in combining democracy values vis a vis islamic values harmoniously. Since reformation 1998, Indonesia administration changed from dictatorship era into democracy.  The rights of the people to distribute their voting rights are stipulated in the Indonesia constitution, the 1945 Constitution, along with various legal instruments derived from them, as well as the guarantee of health rights. Voting rights consist of the right to vote and the right to be a candidate. These two rights are like two sides of a coin in a democratic ceremony and are crucial political civil rights in a democratic state. Nevertheless, this fight between suffrage versus health rights is won by suffrage. Cannot be denied the right to vote is a right that is no less important especially for a state that claims to be a state based on the sovereignty of the people (Article 1 paragraph (2) of the 1945 Constitution) but is confronted, vis a vis, with the right to health which is intertwined with the right to life. So, of course, the right to life must come first, there is no democracy without the right to live at the beginning. It is known that the right to life is categorized as non-derogable rights as stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights junto explicitly stated  in Article 28 A, Article 28 H paragraph (1), and Article 28 I paragraph (1) of the 1945 Indonesia  Constitution.

Therefore, whether suffrage becomes relevant is discussed in the world conditions facing a pandemic issue. Which rights should be prioritized. A postulate mentions “Salus Populi Lex Suprema.” The highest law is the voice of the people above the people’s current interests of the people is, of course, it is to maintain their health and safety (Salus Populi Suprema Lex Esto).

Election Justice amid Pandemic

When the number of positive cases of COVID-19 continues to extremly climb after the government of Indonesia annouced the new normal, even Indonesia is recorded as the country with the highest number of fatalities in Southeast Asia, 76.981 cases and 3.656 death case(data: 13/7/2020), should we  think about the succession of regional power. Of course, this discussion becomes less relevant and does not become the central axis at this time. In Maximin’s theory of justice introduced by renowned philosopher John Rawls, a good policy can be analyzed with the theory of maximum minimorum (read: Maximin). That is, when faced with unfavorable conditions, the ideal and most wise policy is to choose the best from the worst choices that exist and will occur. There are some impacts will be happened if government still keep their idea going on. 

For instance: Many people will likely be infected, oversight processes that will be difficult because there are still many regional restrictions, the lack of public focus on the elections due to their economic conditions will have an impact on declining participation rates, and also regarding the amount of the budget to be allocated despite the necessities of life and people’s health is far more critical. That way, during a pandemic, reducing the risk of damage and fatality by delaying the elections is definitely a true step.

Imagined, how complicated as well as ineffective the concurrent regional election. Moreover, the risks faced by the organizers of the elections and the people if they continue to force the implementation of the elections amid a pandemic. Meanwhile, there is no necessity to hold a regional election other than the annual cycle that is supposed to be. Unless there are such emergency reasons such as the absence of leaders. Meanwhile, we know that the leadership still exists and is run by the government, which today holds office, only that there is an extension of the service period for those who are in office.

The issue has been resolved with the release of Article 201A in Government Regulation in Lieu of Law (Perppu) No. 2 of 2020 about the postponement of the elections and the extension of the term of office for a while. Precisely the holding of the elections simultaneously in the midst of a pandemic made incumbent candidates who advanced for the second period not focus on devoting themselves to the interest of the people. Because the incumbent must be preoccupied with the campaign to be reelected, this crisis period should be a time to test the seriousness of the regional officials who lead today to prove their sincerity and service for the public interest.

Ari Wirya Dinata
Ari Wirya Dinata
Lecturer in Constitutional Law, University of Bengkulu


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