The Elections Law No. 7 of Year 2017 (Law 7/2017) mandates a new authority for the Elections Monitoring Body (Bawaslu) in enforcing the elections law. Other than acting as a monitoring body, now Bawaslu also acts as an institution that has the authority to decide over an electoral violation case and put down the sanction.
Didik Suproyanto, a former member of the Elections Monitoring Committee (Panwas) of 2004, says he is worry with the double role that Bawaslu is currently having. He argues that this extensive authority will cause problems in the future. Here is the recapitulation of our interview with Didik Supriyanto on a discussion titled “Analyzing Bawaslu with Their New Authority” hosted by Titi Anggraini (11/17/2017).
Can you tell us the evolution of Bawaslu from election to election?
In general, the majority of people and especially members of political parties are unsatisfied with election monitoring bodies. This is true for the Elections Monitoring Committee (Panwas) in 2004, Elections Monitoring Body (Bawaslu) in 2009, and Bawaslu in 2014. However, policy makers have two opinions on the monitoring institution. First, they want to enlarge the size of Bawaslu organization—from ad hoc membership to permanent membership, and to let Bawaslu to deploy their overseers to polling stations to extend their scope and outreach.
Second, policy makers want to reform the legal authority of Bawaslu members. Whenever the public criticize Bawaslu, Bawaslu always defend themselves by saying that they only have limited authority.
The government turned Bawaslu into a permanent organization because of equality principle (KPU is a permanent organization even at regency/municipality level). Is this true?
Whether an election management body should be established as permanent organization or not depends on how much workload they will have to take. I myself do not think KPU at regency/municipality should be permanent. Especially in elections that were held concurrently. KPUs at regency/municipality also don’t have much anything to do during non-election period. Why would the government pay for their salary when they are not working? It’s a waste of taxpayers’ money.
However, many policymakers think that, by making Bawaslu a permanent organization, it will enhance their organization. Unfortunately, this is not true. It has been proven as mistaken from elections to elections. Bawaslu has been made permanent since 2009 and their performance has been disappointing.
Bawaslu now can deploy their staffs to oversee elections at polling stations. What do you think about this?
In the last Jakarta Election, I served as an overseer at a polling station. Based on that experience, I can say for sure that another additional overseer from Bawaslu is useless because we already have overseers from every political party and civilian.
Bawaslu deploying overseer at polling stations is also unnecessary because our biggest elections problems lie not at polling station. The way I see it, our election committee members at polling stations have conducted voting and vote-counting process properly. Problems occur during votes recapitulation at village and sub-district level. We know in 2014 Elections KPU initiated an effective method by mandating committee members at polling stations to scan voters’ C1 form so no one at village or sub-district office could manipulate the votes recapitulation process. As the result, losing candidates were hesitating to file lawsuits to the Constitutional Court over the result of the election. This shows how the biggest problem in our elections does not lie at polling stations.
What do you think of the new function of Bawaslu?
The decision to expand Bawaslu’s authority to decide on an electoral laws violation case and put down the sanction is controversial. Recently, Bawaslu used this authority to decide that KPU has violated proper administrative procedure only because KPU mandates every political party to use Political Party Information System (Sipol) for election registration.
This decision has indirectly criticized and corrected KPU Regulations (PKPU). The question then: do Bawaslu have the rights to correct KPU’s regulations? Because it is stated in the Law that PKPU can only be reviewed with permission from the Supreme Court (MA).
The bigger question is: what is Bawaslu? Are they an election monitoring body or a quasi-judicial body?
Can’t monitoring body also acts as a judicial body?
I say it cannot, because when a monitoring body conduct its job, it must at some point decide whether a party or a candidate have committed violation. Any sane monitoring body will defend this decision if challenged. Do you really expect the same institution should be given the authority to have the final say on the matter? As a monitoring body, Bawaslu is expected to be very critical, while as a judge, Bawaslu is expected to be deliberative.
I remember Refly Harus insisted that Bawaslu should be turned into a judicial institution. I say it’s OK as long as Bawaslu is willing to give up their role as monitoring body. Today Bawaslu is given the authority to conduct both roles. It seems to me now Bawaslu is an institution with higher status to KPU, while our constitution suggests the opposite is true.
What problems will likely to occur from this “double-function”?
This will encourage any losing political party or candidate to keep on pushing Bawaslu to overrule KPU’s decision. There will be legal uncertainty and endless legal lawsuit from election participants.
Bawaslu at regency/municipality level will also be encouraged to vehemently execute orders from the top. They will be encouraged to detect any legal violation even if there’s none.
And lastly, many of Bawaslu’s staffs are not competent in executing their judicial role because they were recruited to do monitoring activities. This will cause problems during the election process.