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Jakarta Post

Selection of election organizers needs overhaul to ensure independence: Experts

  • Moch. Fiqih Prawira Adjie

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Thu, July 9, 2020   /   04:07 pm
Selection of election organizers needs overhaul to ensure independence: Experts Suspended General Elections Commission (KPU) commissioner Wahyu Setiawan (center) is accused of asking Rp 900 million (US$65,948) from Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) politician Harun Masiku. (JP/Seto Wardhana)

Experts have called for an overhaul in the assessment process for General Election Commission (KPU) commissioners to ensure their independence as election organizers.

Constitutional law expert Feri Amsari of Andalas University has questioned the current selection mechanism for KPU members, in which the selection committee only chooses a shortlist of candidates while the House of Representatives holds the final say on who will be selected. 

In 2017, the selection committee submitted a shortlist of 14 names to the House, which picked seven candidates for the roles of KPU chairman and commissioners.

“The selection committee should have picked several candidates to fit the amount required to fill the seats in the KPU, with the House only confirming whether or not they will be accepted,” Feri said on Tuesday during a discussion hosted by the Indonesia Election Portal (Rumah Pemilu).

“[This is] to prevent opportunities for political transactions between organizers and prospective election participants [and] conflicts of interest.”

Read also: KPU presses on with December elections despite turnout concerns

He said that recent bribery cases involving KPU members should be a wake-up call to increase independence among election organizers. Most notable is the case of Wahyu Setiawan, who is currently standing trial for allegedly accepting a bribe from Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) politician Harun Masiku.

In addition to revamping the selection process, Feri said that KPU members should be guaranteed a salary and benefits until they retire to reduce the potential for graft. 

“Because they oversee money politics and political endowments, which can be tempting. So, it would be hard for them to maintain independence if they are not well compensated.”

He also suggested that the terms for KPU chairs and members should be extended to seven to 10 years to reduce political tension. In the current regulation, the chair and members serve for five years, with the selection process being held two years prior to the general election. 

Network for Democracy and Electoral Integrity (Netgrit) researcher Ferry Kurnia Rizkiyansyah also pointed out some problems plaguing the selection of members in rural areas, with unscheduled recruitments spanning several waves and “last-minute additions” being common occurrences.

Read also: KPU commissioner Evi Novida dismissed for manipulating vote results in West Kalimantan

For example, the KPU announced seven new members for its West Java provincial representative office in October 2018, around five months before the 2019 general election. In comparison, the commission selected seven members for its Lampung provincial office in October 2019.

“Selection for [KPU commissioners] should be conducted at least two years before an election,” he said during the discussion, adding that the commission should create a more orderly schedule for selecting members in rural provinces, cities and regencies.

He added that knowledge about politics, law and the election mechanism should be key considerations in choosing KPU commissioners to ensure the commission’s integrity and professionalism.