Indonesia general elections will be held in April 2019, or within the next six months. Though this direct elections in Indonesia began following the second election after the New Order in 2004, many problems remained. For the electoral stages, the Constitution provides a full mandate to the General Election Commission (KPU) as an independent state institution. This Commission holds an important position owing to its strategic role in determining the success of democratic elections.
The responsibility to contend with threats and problems arising from violations during the 2019 election falls to the Indonesia National Police (Polri). Polri will be assisted by the Indonesian National Armed Forces (TNI) in maintaining safe, democratic and transparent elections. Referring to Larry Diamond in his 2010 article entitled “Indonesia’s place in global democracy”, Diamond recognizes that democratization in Indonesia has led to a good system which sees honest and fair elections marked by expanded public opportunity and freedom of the press.
The problem that arises during elections in the reform era among others is election legal dispute due to overlap and multiple-interpretation policies. The campaign launched by the two presidential candidates and legislative candidates has created grey areas that could potentially trigger problems and even violence. Further issues including attempts to manipulate the voting system, mechanism and process through hidden (non-transparent) means, including skewing election tabulating data. The opposition has also encountered restrictions on its political freedom.
The problem that most easily can ignite conflicts and threat of electoral security is a power struggle between candidates for support within each camp. Both supporters of Joko Widodo-Ma’ruf Amin and Prabowo Subianto-Sandiaga Uno have the potential to engage in negative campaigns, including the propagation of hoaxes, and politicization of religion and identity.
The methods of public debate and campaign programs during the 2019 election have the potential to be irrational because there is a fondness for unsubstantiated (or poorly substantiated) rumour and hearsay, plus a lack of public participation. The use of technology and social media is high for developing countries such as Indonesia, but unfortunately it is not accompanied by the development of rationality, adherence to the law and the responsible use of rights and freedoms.
Implications of the role of Polri and TNI
The continually sizable security constraints and threats in the 2019 election pushed Polri to change its approach, from working alone, to cooperation with the military. At the beginning of his leadership as Police Chief, General Tito Karnavian, gave an assessment of national security issues, asserting that 60% of them stem from social media and the use of technology. Therefore, Karnavian introduced democratic policing to familiarize Polri with political and electoral processes. My experience in teaching the Indonesia police academy students’ (2004-2016) shows the resistance of young police officers to the instrumentalization and politicization of the force.
Recognizing the tendencies of the cadres, Karnavian brought the police closer to politics. However, what emerged was the threat of political neutrality between Polri and the TNI army itself. This stems from the fact that when Polri become closer to the public, and politic remains an issue of personal preference, class and other deviations from its noble goal (serving the public, preserving sovereignty), they become disenfranchised. Politicians in the 2019 election battlefields make their momentum as structural mobility in the supra power structure. As a result, they do anything they could where they are suppose to be people who have been finished with their personal business and determine to serve the citizens.
In this connection, in early 2018, Karnavian signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the TNI Commander, Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto, outlining the role of Polri and TNI. Based on the MoU (Kerma/2/I/2018), both parties agreed to cooperate and assist one another, with TNI specifically helping Polri to maintain public security and order. The form of TNI assistance to Polri includes:
a). Confronting demonstrations and strikes;
b). Confronting mass riots;
c). Contending with social conflict;
d). Securing local, national and international community and/or government activities which may be vulnerable;
e). Facing other situations that require assistance from Polri in accordance with the laws and regulations (MoU TNI-Polri, B/2I/2018).
Interestingly, in the “Sesko PKB Juang 2018” seminar in Bandung recently, Karnavian acknowledged that although the legal umbrella for cooperation is not comprehensive, the level of public satisfaction and support is increasing. To encourage the involvement of TNI, it is better to adjust to the principles of military operations distinct from combat, which are “typical of Indonesia”, so that it is necessary to strengthen regulation and political support. After all, every utilization of TNI requires presidential approval and parliamentary support.
Cooperation between TNI and Polri has had a constructive impact on the togetherness of national defence and security institutions which during the reform period were rigidly separate and antagonistic. Hopefully this can continue to reduce the potential for conflict between the TNI and Polri as has to date been the case. The involvement of TNI in assisting Polri in the 2019 election is expected to result in the holding of thorough, democratic and safe elections. In addition, it is likely that long overdue solidarity betw een the two institutions within the framework of an advanced national security governance will grow as will an attitude of mutual cooperation .