As Aceh Votes, a Lesson for All of Us

Voting in Aceh today will be closely watched by observers to gauge whether the challenges posed by simultaneous elections at various levels in a province offset the benefits. 

More than 3.2 million people in Aceh are expected to cast their ballots to elect a governor and deputy governor, district heads and mayors. It is the second such simultaneous elections for Aceh after the last ones in 2007. 

Besides polls at the provincial level to elect a governor and deputy governor, Aceh will also see elections at 17 district or municipal levels, with a total of 9,786 polling stations across the province. 

“Simultaneous elections for heads of regions could be the answer. I am convinced that such elections are much more efficient than elections that are not held simultaneously in a region,” said Saldi Isra, a legal expert at Andalas University in Padang. 

He said simultaneous elections were clearly much more economical than holding elections separately, as is usually the case. He cited the case of West Sumatra, which in 2010 held simultaneous elections for 14 of its 19 districts and municipalities. 

“The West Sumatra General Elections Commission [KPUD] reported that the costs were 50 percent less than when the elections were held at different times,” he said. 

However, unless they are properly organized, simultaneous elections can also pose plenty of problems, including the potential for ensuing bureaucratic transitions across an entire province, he said. 

Electoral disputes can also pile up, he said, and cause a backlog at the Constitutional Court in Jakarta, which has the authority to handle them, resulting in delayed decisions. 

Hadar Gumay, a newly elected member of the General Elections Commission (KPU), said the advantages of simultaneous elections in a province were more numerous than the drawbacks.

“This is a good idea because we will be saving more money. The personnel are the same, there is no need to retrain them or pay them repeatedly,” he said. “The advantages are many.

”However, Hadar, who is also a founder of the Center for Electoral Reform (Cetro), said simultaneous elections also carried an element of confusion. 

“Often, one election influences other elections,” he said. “This is a psychological problem for voters. Voters should be able to vote differently.” 

He said voters might be confused by having to take in all the information on different candidates from different parties running for governor, mayor and district head. And the same parties may offer different programs at the provincial, district and municipal level, adding a further layer of confusion to the process for voters. 

“Simultaneous elections will results in a certain level of complexity,” he said. 

He also said simultaneous local elections could see more electoral disputes having to be settled by the Constitutional Court at the same time. 

But he added that these problems could be anticipated and prevented with better supervision and law enforcement. 

All local elections should be held at the same time, and separated from national elections by two and a half years, he said. 

Irman Putra Sidin, a legal expert at Hasanuddin University in Makassar, agreed. “I would say after the presidential election, just hold the regional elections all at once,” he said. 

But aldi said holding local elections all at once for the entire country would be too difficult. 

“It would be possible for several provinces to hold their regional elections at the same time, but not all 33 provinces at the same time,” he said. “I just cannot imagine what would happen.”

Source : Jakarta Globe