Dialogue on Empowering the Electoral Management Bodies
Bali, Indonesia, 10-16 May 2013
The Government of Indonesia has been supporting the democratic transition in Asia-Pacific and other regions; one is through the Institute for Peace and Democracy (IPD). Supporting by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Indonesia, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Tunisia, the Embassy of Indonesia in Tunis, the Embassy of Tunisia in Jakarta and the General Election Commission of the Bali Province, IPD held Workshop on Indonesia – Tunisia Capacity Building Partnership for Democracy: Dialogue on Empowering the Electoral Management Bodies, 10-16 May 2013. The Dialogue aimed to accommodate the sharing of experiences and lesson learned on managing a peaceful and successful election with a legitimate result as well as establishing political consensus, particularly during the time of political transition.
The Dialogue was attended by 14 selected participants from Tunisia who represented the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Human Rights and Transitional Justice, the Constituent National Assembly, the Presidential Office, Tunisia General Labour Union, Amnesty International Office and media. The Indonesian Ambassador to Tunisia and the Indonesian Embassy’s staff participated in the dialogue as well.
IPD designed the dialogue so that it was conjunction with the Gubernatorial Election of the Bali Province. On 11 May 2013 the participants were attending the “Peace Campaign” which took place at Besakih Temple. They were greeted by the candidates and their supporters. During the Election Day on 15 May 2013, the participants who were divided into two groups visited several polling stations escorted by officials of General Election Commission. At the polling stations in Nusa Dua area, the participants observed the opening of the polling stations that included the checking of the ballots by the polling stations’ authority. The participants then went to Denpasar. One group visited the polling station of the Governor candidate, Puspayoga, led by Patron of IPD, Dr. Hassan Wirajuda. Another group led by the Executive Director of IPD visited the station of the other Governor candidate, Mangku Pastika. When all polling stations were closed, all participants observed the ballot counting at the polling station in Sanur area.
Meanwhile, the Dialogue itself was held on 13-14 May at the IPD headquarter in Bukit Jimbaran Campus. Experienced and skilled resource persons managed the discussion. They were Dr. Hassan Wirajuda, Abdul Aziz, M.A, Prof. Bahtiar Effendy, Prof. Dr. Satya Arinanto, Bambang Harymurti, M.P.A., Lieutenant General Agus Widjojo, I Ketut Putra Erawan, Ph.D., Kuskrido Ambardi, Ph.D., Ambassador Agus Tarmizi, Chairman of the National Electoral Management Body of Indonesia and Commissioner of the National Election Watch Body.
The Dialogue focused on following topics discussed in two days:
Election with integrity that provided a logical connection between elections and democracy
Government and all political parties must support election with integrity. An effort must be home grown and competition for power must be regulated. Professional judges and professionals in elections must deal with irregularities. Election can also undermine democracy since it is also dealing with violence and instability. Election with integrity related to peace and security. For example, in Kenya election brought about civil war and in the People Republic of Congo it caused post- election war. In Indonesia, we often see communal conflict resulting from the election.
Managing elections that provided an overview of the legal basis for electoral management: principles, systems, and governance
Discussion focused on issues and challenges in the Electoral Cycle, especially in terms of financing and logistical. In case of Indonesia, the Constitutional Amendment of the 1945 Constitution results the establishment of a special Chapter and Article on General Election.This Chapter and its Articles become legal bases for Indonesia’s honest and fair elections.
Political contexts: Islam, Military and Locality that examined the implications of religions (values, institutions, and politics) in shaping the dynamic of general and local elections
In the context of locality, the discussion focused on the implication of democracy in local politics and how local context affected democracy and election. In managing local election, there is a need to deal with complexity of the local issue. For example, in Bali, one way to manage conflict is for EMB commissioners, candidates and their team as well as polling stations’ officials and voters wearing Balinese traditional attire in order to prevent wrong doing. The EMB also actively involves the candidates and their supporting political parties to conduct praying together as “peace campaign” at some Hindu temples. Meanwhile, in other regions of Indonesia such as Aceh, the culture of Islam affected the practice of democracy.
In the context of military, the biggest challenge for Indonesia was to make the military withdrew from politics. There were pressures from democratization wave. Democratization is unavoidable and the military was anticipating the situation. Unlike military and police commanders who were never elected by the people, public officials were elected and got mandates from the people. In the democratic government, non-elected officials are not possible since the constitutional basis for representing the people is through general election. The military and the police have no constitutional mandate in involving in politics. In the past, the central role of the military was during the emergency government but now the function of the military is only in defense.
In the Indonesian democracy, military deployment is taken by political decision of the central government and cannot be delegated to the regional government. In addition, military does not involve with politics and political parties. Therefore, the right to vote for soldiers and police officers is not restored since political solidarity and loyalty will be divided.
In the context of Islam, when Indonesian State began in 1950 it was Islamic parties which endorsed democracy. There was no theological background but simply political decision. When the Moslems chose democracy, they thought it was Moslems who would benefit from democracy. In 1998 when Indonesia restored democracy, Moslems could not restore their dominance.
The Dialogue continued with discussions on the role of Islam mass organizations and their roles after the reform; the interpretation of Islam mass organizations and Islam leaders; the relations between Islam and the state and how to convince that Islam could go along with democracy.
The resource person delivered his thoughts on media landscape in transitional environment in the case of Indonesia. Only after “reformasi” movement in 1998 the press in Indonesia acquired its hard earned freedom. The 1999 Press Act instructs the formation of an independent Press Council which has primary task to guard press freedom from any intervention. To ensure its independence, all nine members of the independent Press Council are non-government representatives. Three are chosen by journalists associations, another three are chosen by media industry and the rest representing general public. To make a strong point that press freedom belongs to the public-not only the press-internal regulation prohibits representatives from the journalist associations to be elected as the Chair of the Council. Members of the Council are elected every three years and there is a two terms limitation policy.
In the early reform, Indonesia had several communal clashes. Media was part of the problem. Several media had provocative content. Therefore, the Journalist Association conducted training on journalism peace where the media sat together. Instead of creating problem, the media intended to create solution. Consequently, media has high respect on human rights.
However, there are also threats to the Press freedom such as attacks by political mobs, criminal defamation by state officials, criminal and civil defamations by powerful cronies, attacks by militias, consolidation of business cartel, attacks by hatred motivated groups and mafia (state-business-underworld).
Other topics discussed in the dialogue were on political competitions that provided an overview of the various dimensions of political competition in elections: candidacy, campaigning, financing, and mobilization of supports; on managing disputes that provided overview of the electoral justice system; on Commission of Truth and Friendship of Indonesia-Timor Leste that aimed to share experiences in managing issues during transition to democracy that included human rights, immunity, civil-military relationship and transitional justice.
The participants from Tunisia and their counterparts from Indonesia not only discussed those important topics, but they also engaged in some simulations related to the topics. In conclusion, the workshop recognized that regular and genuine election is an important aspect of democracy. Elections enhance public deliberation and reasoning on matter of public interests and enable society to structure and resolve conflict and interest differences in peaceful means. There should be integrity to achieve genuine elections which guarantee political and civil rights, freedom to vote and to be nominated in the elections, freedom of the press and universal suffrage. Election with integrity will result in a legitimate election result, trust to the democratic system, and enable the elected officials to produce sound policies.
According to a participant from Tunisia, this is a suitable time to participate in such program. Since 1999 Indonesia has been making it very possible to overcome unstable time to become a success. Indonesia has overcome economic crisis and cultural issues. Meanwhile, Tunisia is in the first step of a new tract, including rewriting its new constitution. Every citizen participates in the transition. Tunisia aims to achieve the transition of democracy with dignity. They also need to break with the past and to be a pluralistic state. Therefore, Tunisia needs lots of efforts and supports and learns from the successful experience.