Independent candidates marginalised by oligarchy, political dynasties

Source – December 21, 2020
Independent candidates Wahyono (right) and Supardjo (left) hold posters with their campaign numbers in Solo – September 24, 2020 (Antara)

Irwan Syambudi & Mohammad Bernie – There were 68 independent or individual candidates who contested the December 9 election of regional heads (Pilkada), but according to the General Elections Commission (KPU) only six won.

The six winning independent candidates were Romi Hariyanto and Robby Nahliyansyah East Tanjung Jabung regency, Jambi, Wahdi and Qomaru Zaman in Metro City, Lampung, and Syamsul and Hendra in Rejang Lebong, Bengkulu.

Then there was Aulia Oktafiandi and Mansyah Sabri in Hulu Sungai Tengah, South Kalimantan, Hendrik Syake Mambor and Andarias Kayukatui in Wondama Bay, West Papua province, and Untung Tamsil and Yohana Dina Hindom in Fakfak, also in Papua Barat province.

In percentage terms, only 8.8 of the winning candidate tickets were independents.

The percentage of winning independent candidates declined drastically compared with the 2015 Pilkada. Based on a survey by Indonesian Survey Scale (SSI), there were 35 independent candidate tickets or 14.4 percent that won in the 2015 Pilkada.

Aside from the drastic decline in the percentage of winning candidates, several independent tickets suffered tragic defeats.

In South Labuhan Batu, North Sumatra, three independent candidates contested the election. All three lost, and one of them, the Maslin Pulungan-Fery Andhika Dalimunthe ticket, only received 4,699 votes (3 percent).

The other tragic defeat was suffered by the independent ticket of Bagyo Wahyono and FX Suparjo (Bajo) in Surakarta (Solo), Central Java, who lost to President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's eldest son Gibran Rakabuming Raka.

The loss was marred by allegations of they employed identity card (KTP) brokers. These suspicions strengthened after the number of votes they garnered was less than the number of supporters' signatures and copies of KTPs they had collected to be eligible to run in the election.

Difficult for independents to win

Indonesia Political Review Executive Director Ujang Hasanudin says that since the first direct election of regional heads was held in 2005, it has indeed been difficult for independents to win.

"Winning independent candidates are few and it's difficult to win. This is because our democracy is controlled and dominated by the political parties", said Hasanudin on Friday last week.

Independent candidate tickets are toppled because most of their rivals are incumbents who are supported by many political parties (parpol). Based on data for the 2020 Pilkada, 80 incumbents contested the election.

In general terms, the strength of independent candidates is uneven. Their rivals control political networks down to the level of the neighborhood association (RT) and community unit (RW). Village heads also allegedly side with incumbents.

"Democracy at the moment tends to side with the political parties which are controlled by the oligarchy and political dynasties, so the chances of independent candidates winning is low", he said

According to Hasanudin, there must be changes to the electoral regulations if it is to be made easier for independent candidates. Hasanudin believes that lawmakers – members of the political parties in the House of Representatives (DPR) – have intentionally made the regulations on independent candidates difficult.

Electoral researcher Ikhsan Maulana from the Constitution and Democracy (Kode) Initiative says that the increasingly small number of independent candidates and the increasing difficulties they face winning elections is because of the heavy requirements for registration.

"The supporting requirements for independent candidates to step forward are indeed very onerous compared with the parpols. For the parpols they only have to convert the number of seats in [local] parliaments. Parpols can [nominate candidates] providing they have 20 percent [of seats]", said Maulana when contacted by Tirto on Friday December 18.

Independent candidates meanwhile must collect signatures and copies of KTPs from supporters based on a percentage of the population in the electoral district.

The number of signatures and KTPs required varies based on the type of election, ranging between 6.5 and 10 percent of eligible voters. The initial requirements are already onerous, and it remains uncertain whether the supports based on signatures and KTPs will actually vote for them.

Independent candidates who make through the registration process are then faced with a difficult situation. Winning is made more difficult because they do not have a consolidated support base and public inducements like candidates backed by the political parties.

According to Maulana, the evidence of this is that the majority of candidates who won the December 9 regional elections were those backed by the big political parties.

"This illustrates how the structure (which the parties have) was actually very dominant in the 2020 Pilkada", he said. ( – Politik)

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Calon Independen Pilkada Bertumbangan, Demokrasi Dikuasai Oligarki".]