Members of the Parliament and the government finally passed the Elections Law Bill on July 21st 2017. The decision to pass the bill was taken by majority voting because four political parties disagree with some content of the bill and decided to walk out of the plenary meeting. In general, the new Elections Law specifies the provisions regarding the election management body, the legislative election process, and the presidential election process.
Several important changes bring forth by the new Elections Law are related to the position and authority of the election management bodies (EMBs). The Election Monitoring Body (Bawaslu), as a part of three election management bodies in Indonesia, is now having a stronger position and authority in the whole electoral process thanks to the new Elections Law.
For example, Bawaslu is now shall be regarded as permanent institution down to regency/municipality level, much like the Elections Commission (previously, Bawaslu was only permanent at national level, while members and staffs of the regency/municipality Bawaslus were hired provisionally). However, this provision can only be implemented after the Parliament members pass Bill on Election Management Bodies Law. In addition, Bawaslu is now having 5 to 7 commissioners where previouslt they only have three.
Meanwhile, Bawaslu must refer to the old Election Management Bodies Law in regards with the recruitment of provisional monitoring staff. It was necessary for the government to improve the authority and position of Bawaslu because of the significant importance of election monitoring institution in ensuring a free and fair elections.
Bawaslu’s new motto is ‘With voters monitoring elections, with Bawaslu enforce justice in elections’. It is expected that this new motto will become a motivation for all Bawaslu members and workers to improve their performance and to make Bawaslu as a supreme institution when it comes to election monitoring and enforcing justice in elections. However, Bawaslu is now facing more sophisticated and complex problems.
One of the problem that recently got identified is the use of advance technology to conduct illicit activities and frauds in elections. Therefore, Bawaslu should provide proper response to this problem by involving members of the society and civil communities in the election monitoring process.
The new Elections Law has just expanded the scope of authority of Bawaslu by allowing Bawaslu to investigate and take judicial decision over electoral violation. It is then a challenge for Bawaslu to formulate a proper legal framework in order to perform its judicial role in the election process. Also, Bawaslu should also be able to prevent any social and political backlash from the judicial decision they make during the process.
In addition, Bawaslu shoul also immediately find solutions for these problems and challenges:
1. Capacity Building
The change of status from provisional monitoring staff to permanent monitoring staff for all members of the Election Monitoring Committee (Panwaslu) in local areas will affect the performance of the institution greatly. Bawaslu will have to make policies that can ensure the quality of the human resources of the institution.
It is important for Bawaslu to implement merit-based recruitment process by considering many aspects possessed by staff candidates, such as technical knowledge, communication skill, work experience, and personal integrity.
2. Public Confidence in the Institution
After receiving more authorities by the government, it is expected that the public will also have greater expectation in regards with Bawaslu’s performance and integrity. In 2013, Indonesia Survey Institute (LSI) in cooperation with IFES released a report which says that Bawaslu receives 71 percent of approval rate from the public. It will take a lot of hard work to maintain, or even improve, such high public confidence.
3. Improving Accountability
Many people think that the toughest part of Bawaslu’s job is to monitor the dynamics of political activities during the election period. But the truth is Bawaslu also faces difficulties in managing conflicts and political dynamics within its own institution. The Elections Management Body’s Honor Council (DKPP) had imposed many sanctions for Bawaslu members and staffs in the past for violation and misconduct. It is therefore important for Bawaslu to improve their line of accountability within the institution.
The problem stems from the fact that the authority held by members/commissioners of Bawaslu is blurred with the authority held by the institution’s secretariat. And this in turn is stemmed from the lack of communication and understanding on behalf of the Bawaslu staffs about their own scope of power and authority. Bawaslu can prevent this confusion by controlling its secretariat department properly so that there will be no clash between cells in the institution. Bawaslu commissioners should also improve their style of leadership in order to change their patern of communication and coordination into something more flexible and friendly.