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The New Elections Law Bill Is Not Progressive Enough

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Having covering the discussions process of the Elections Law Bill since November, I can surely say that the contents of the Bill are not progressive enough to accommodate the interests of the people they should have prioritize. None of the articles on the Bill mentions any important point that effectively protect the interests of minority and marginalized groups, such as women, people with disability, new political parties, and overseas voters.

For me, members of the Special Committee for Elections Law Bill have been very inconsiderate in regards with those social groups. I will elucidate this point in detail as follows:

Women

Five women group organizations, consisted of Women’s Voice Empowerment Movement (GPSP), Advance, Indonesian Women (MPI), Indonesia Women Coalition (KPI), Caucus of Women Parliamentarian in Indonesia (KPPI), and Civil Society Alliance for Women and Politics (Ansipol), were invited to the Parliament hearing session on January 8th 2017. Representatives from the Ministry of Women Affair and Children Protection (KPPA) were also invited to a hearing session on February 1st 2017. All of these organizations urge the members of the Special Committee for Elections Law Bill to accommodate seven points in in the new Elections Law. Those are:

  • a mandatory 30 percent of minimum women representation in every branch of political party.

  • Cancel the mandatory resignation for any female officer of State-Owned Enterprise (SOE) or any other state institution whenever they wish to participate in election as candidate. This is to further increase women participation in politics.

  • The selection committee for legislative candidate in every political party shall at least consisted of 30 percent of female members.

  • Every political party shall propose a list of candidates that at least consists of 30 percent of female candidates otherwise they shall be disqualified and barred to participate in the election in the respective electoral area.

  • Every political party shall put female candidate as their number 1 candidate in at least 30 percent of electoral areas.

  • Any female members of the parliament shall only be replaced by another female candidate.

  • Whenever there are two candidates receive an equal amount of votes, then political party shall prioritize the female candidate as an affirmative action.

However, members of the Special Committee seem to think it is more important to prioritize the interests of political parties over that of the public. They agree only on three points. Firstly, they agree that there should be at least one female candidate for every three candidates (the 30 percent quota)–referring to Article 227 and 228 of the Bill.

Secondly, they agree that female candidate should be placed on number 1, 2, or 3, on the candidates list.

Thirdly, they agree that political party should be able to fulfill the 30 percent quota of women membership at headquarter level, referring to Article 156 paragraph (2) point e of the Elections Law Bill. Meanwhile, for membership at local branch level, they need only to “consider” the 30 percent quota, referring to Article 10, 16, 45, 48, 50, and 76 of the Elections Law Bill. Point one and two have already contained in the Law No.8/2012.

New Political Parties

There are four new political parties that will be participating in the 2019 Elections, they are Indonesia Solidarity Party (PSI), Working Party (Partai Berkarya), Grand Indonesia Party (Perindo), and Idaman Party. They all have different aspirations in regards with the Elections Law Bill. However, all four parties want two things from the government in order to guarantee a free and fair political contest in election: (1) the government need to diversify political parties participating in elections, and (2) the government need to repeal presidential threshold.

“The simple fact that we have presidential threshold in our elections law shows that there is a major force in politics that wants to block the emergence of new forces and contenders. The government should be able to provide equal chance for everyone to challenge the status quo,” says the General Secretary of Perindo, Ahmad Rofiq, during a hearing session in Jakarta (02/08).

The Special Committee’s position regarding the presidential threshold is still uncertain, but they have already made a decision in regards with new party verification process, a disappointing one. On May 20th 2017, members of the Special Committee have decided that political party that had been participated in previous elections does not have to be verified by the Election Commission.

Article 156 paragraph (3) of the Elections Law Bill states that any political party that has passed the verification process as detailed in paragraph (2) does not need to undertake re-verification.

This means that old parties (those that currently hold parliamentary seats) will participate in the 2019 Elections for free while new parties will have to undertake a strict verification process just to be in the game.

People with Disability

Members of the Indonesia Union of People with Disability (PPDI) and Center for Accessible Elections for People with Disability (PPUA Penca) were invited to a hearing session with members of the Special Committee on February 16th and May 16th 2017. In the hearing session, the activists asked the members of Special Committee to include in the Bill a regulation that mandates political party to put representatives from people with disability on their candidates list at least 10 percent of total candidates, and 2 percent of the representatives to be placed as top candidates (number 1, 2, or, 3). They also asked the government to reduce the number of signatures (as a sign of public support) that have to be collected for disabled candidate to participate in election by 50 percent.

“10 to 15 percent of Indonesian population are people with disability. Then I think it is normal for us to ask 10 percent quota in electoral participation,” says the Chairman of PPDI, Gufroni Sakaril (02/16).

Unfortunately, members of the Special Committee reject all of the proposals. The only regulation about people with disability in the new Elections Law Bill is contained in Article 5, which states: every person with disability that is eligible by law to participate in elections shall have equal opportunity to participate as voter, candidate in legislative or presidential election, or members of the election management body (EMB).

There is no affirmative action for people with disability in the new Elections Law. Activists from PPDI and PPUA Penca have to wait for another years to fight for their interests one more time.

Overseas Voters

At the end of the discussion process of the Elections Law Bill, members of the Special Committee for the Bill invited Diaspora Indonesia to express their opinion and aspirations regarding the content of the Bill. On June 2nd 2017, the Chief of Overseas Constituency Advocacy, Mohammad Al Arief, asked members of the Special Committee to consider the formation of overseas constituency. Mohammad argued that the total number of Indonesian citizen living abroad is big enough to form its own electoral area, and the needs and aspirations of people living overseas are different than those of voters in Jakarta II Area where overseas constituency currently reside.

“We want to have a strong linkage to our representative in the parliament. Therefore, we respectfully ask you (members of the Special Committee—trans) to form an overseas constituency separated from Jakarta II,” said Mohammad.

Much to the disappointment of Mohammad and his colleagues, members of the Special Committee ignored their request.

Not Progressive Enough

We cannot hope for a more inclusive, free, and fair elections when the legal framework does not have progressive laws. Many public aspirations—most of them are the significant ones—got rejected by members of the Special Committee for Elections Law to be included in the Law, such as the demand from women groups, people with disability, and overseas voters.

The Executive Director of Migrant Care, Wahyu Susilo, criticizes the decision made by the members of Special Committee especially regarding the allocation of fifteen new additional parliamentary seats where they do not even distribute a single seat for overseas constituency. In a press release on June 14th, Wahyu wrote: “there has been not a single member of the Parliament who seriously consider and fight for the needs and aspirations of overseas voters. Members of the Special Committee should be brave enough to allocate parliament seats to form overseas constituency.”

Meanwhile, a disability activist, Gufroni Sakaril, says he and his colleagues are disappointed that members of the Special Committee deny their request to include 10 percent quota for candidates with disability in the Elections Law Bill. However, Gufron appreciates the fact that members of Special Committee include Article 5 in the Bill and hopes that the Elections Commission (KPU) will be able to implement the Article into a KPU Regulation (PKPU).

The Coordinator of Ansipol, Yuda Irlang, and a KPI member, Dewi Komalasari, also express their disappointment. They say members of Special Committee, dominated by male politicians, have not yet understand the vital role of regulations in advancing the affirmative struggle for women. Yuda even says that members of Special Committee do not intend to put this issue as a priority since the very beginning.

“This failure (to advance gender equality issue into Elections Law) is a complex issue. Political parties are busy with their race to power. They abandon the interests of their female cadres,” says Yuda.

All of these disappointments from many people shows how our democracy and elections are still marginalizing people with no power and proper resources. Our elections are yet to be free and fair.

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