Ghina Ghaliya, Jakarta – Election organizers and regional administrations have requested extra funds from the state budget for the 2020 simultaneous regional elections as the central government insists on holding year-end regional polls amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Home Minister Tito Karnavian proposed a total of Rp 1.4 trillion (US$98.78 million) in extra funding for the General Elections Commission (KPU), the Elections Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu), the Election Organization Ethics Council (DKPP) and at least 204 of 270 regions across Indonesia that are set to hold elections in December.
"The central [election organizers] need Rp 391 billion and the regional ones needs Rp 1.02 trillion. Therefore, we need Rp 1.4 trillion in extra budget funds," Tito said on Thursday in a virtual hearing with Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati and House of Representatives Commission II, which oversees home affairs.
Tito said the budget allocations were Rp 908.4 billion for regional KPU branches, Rp 76.36 billion for the Bawaslu branches and Rp 35.78 billion for the election security budget, while the remaining Rp 391 billion would be allocated to the central KPU, Bawaslu and DKPP.
"The amount could increase once the KPU issues its regulation on the COVID-19 health protocol for the regional elections. They might need to add more equipment later," he said.
During the meeting, the KPU proposed Rp 4.7 trillion in extra budget funds, which included allocations for implementing health protocols and an increase in the number of polling stations due to the physical distancing requirement.
"If we make it more efficient, we could reduce the proposed amount by Rp 641 billion, but the branches would have to approve this first," KPU chairman Arief Budiman said.
He suggested that the central government be the one that provides the budget needs, not the regional administrations, as their cash flow had been affected by the pandemic response.
"Therefore, we need backup from the state budget. We can process it more quickly with the central administration's support," added Arief.
Law No. 10/2016 on regional elections requires regional administrations to provide the election budget. However, many regional administrations have reported cash flow issues affecting the elections budget.
The government previously put the cost for the 2020 simultaneous regional elections at Rp 14.98 trillion, to be sourced from the regional administration budgets and disbursed around Rp 5.78 trillion.
As the election day has been postponed from the initial date of Sept. 23, the government, the KPU and the House agreed to "freeze" the remaining balance of around Rp 9 trillion.
"In April 2020, the Home Ministry issued a circular to freeze the money to avoid it is being used for the COVID-19 handling," Tito said.
The plan to go through with the elections in December has sparked concern about higher costs and further virus transmission.
Health experts have warned that holding the elections in December could raise the transmission of COVID-19, given that the preliminary stages of the elections will start in June, which involve assembling many people, including election officials, the candidates' campaign team members and voters.
The Association for Elections and Democracy (Perludem) stated that the forced implementation of simultaneous regional elections amid a pandemic could do more harm than good.
They cited concerns such as the risk of virus transmission, the politicization of social aid, the lack of a level playing field for incumbents and challengers as well as a decline in voter participation.