July 18, 2024

Civil Servants’ Neutrality Key to Democratic Elections

The abolition of the Civil Service Commission [Komisi Aparatur Sipil Negara or KASN] through the revision of Law No. 5 of 2014 concerning Civil Servants (ASN) has the potential to increase violations of the neutrality of civil servants in the 2024 elections. This is because there is no longer an independent commission overseeing the neutrality of civil servants in the General Elections

“If in 2024, without the presence of KASN, the potential for neutrality violations will be high. This is compounded by the fact that many acting regional heads (Penjabat or Pj) are not elected through the Elections and are solely accountable to the Ministry of Home Affairs and the President. Meanwhile, the Parliament is busy with campaigning,” said Ade Reza Hariyadi, a lecturer at Krisnadwipayana University, at the Office of the Institute for Economic and Social Research, Education, and Information (LP3ES) in Jakarta on December 26.

Ade Reza stated that based on KASN’s findings, in 2022, there were approximately 2,073 cases of civil servants’ neutrality, and 77.5% were proven to have committed violations. These violations took the form of utilizing state resources through policies and budgets for political interests.

“So, it can be imagined that without effective supervision, the potential for non-neutrality can occur. This social assistance program will continue until June, and throughout that period, it can be used as a political tool,” he explained.

The same things was also expressed by Titi Anggraini, a lecturer at the Faculty of Law, University of Indonesia. She lamented the elimination of KASN’s role, emphasizing that KASN’s contribution to maintaining the neutrality of civil servants has been commendable.

“Neutrality of civil servants is extremely crucial. In the 2014 and 2019 Elections, several Polling Stations (TPS) had to undergo a re-vote due to lack of neutrality,” said Titi.

According to her that the lack of neutrality among civil servants can undermine the principles of fairness and equality in elections, leading to dissatisfaction with the electoral process. The negative consequences include disobedience towards the government formed through the electoral process.

“As a result, the government finds it difficult to work effectively because issues of electoral legitimacy continue to disrupt,” she added. Furthermore, Titi explained that there are differences in the legal framework governing the neutrality of civil servants in General Elections (Pemilu) and Regional Head Elections (Pilkada). In the Election Law, civil servants can only be processed if they are involved as implementers and official campaign teams registered with the General Election Commission (KPU). Meanwhile, in Regional Head Elections, campaigning by candidate pairs is prohibited from involving civil servants.

“So, in Regional Head Elections, civil servants are prohibited from showing any form of bias,” she explained. The number of court decisions related to electoral offenses in General Elections (Pemilu) and Regional Head Elections (Pilkada) has been increasing from year to year. In the 2018 Pilkada, there were 33 decisions related to the neutrality of civil servants, which increased to 73 decisions in the 2020 Pilkada. Meanwhile, in the 2019 Elections, out of 361 decisions, there were 31 decisions related to the neutrality of village heads.

“The non-neutrality of civil servants is evident. It’s not something new, so it’s understandable that the public voices strong opinions about it,” she added.

According to her, the prevention that needs to be undertaken is by strengthening the consolidation of civil society, academics, and influential community groups to monitor and report violations of civil servants’ neutrality. This can begin by enhancing the ability of voters to detect, analyze, and expose violations of civil servants’ neutrality.

“What is allowed, what is not allowed, such as what is deemed non-neutral. Our voters need to be educated, and there should be more social media content highlighting what our officials can and cannot do,” concluded Titi.

Meanwhile, Sidratahta Mukhtar, the author of the book “Polri di bawah Presiden” (The Police under the President), stated that despite being supported by police reform in 2002, the police force remains one of the most challenging institutions to control. He mentioned that the police system in Indonesia is highly centralized, with 400 thousand police officers being led solely by the Chief of Indonesian National Police (Kapolri).

“Even though in the constitution, the police are subject to the law, in Indonesia, it’s unique, and it follows a command system, where neutrality is linked to the mandate,” he explained.

According to him, police neutrality is closely related to the consistency of the police in upholding the law before and after elections. However, in the state structure, the police are a government element in the fields of security and law.

“I see vulnerability in police neutrality because of the command system down to the lowest level. Non-neutrality will occur without oversight. In my opinion, the lower the level of supervision, the higher the potential for abuse of power,” explained Sidratahta.

During the electoral period, it is crucial to enhance oversight of the police’s role to ensure the institution’s credibility is maintained. According to him, police neutrality should be measured against established legal principles. Therefore, he reminds civil society not only to monitor electoral politics but also to pay attention to the threat of power abuse.

“With this centralized police system, the role of actors and top police officials in being neutral is crucial,” he concluded.

This point is also emphasized by Herdi Syahrasyad, a researcher and lecturer at Paramadina University. According to him, with a police system centralized under the Chief of Indonesian National Police (Kapolri), there should be strong control mechanisms for the neutrality of all police officers. Through this, the public can trust the police institution and the election results.

“Neutrality is not just through words but also proven in the field so that public trust is maintained. Because trust in the state is everything,” said Herdi.

Translated by Catherine Natalia