The Legitimacy of Acting Regional Heads
The process of appointing PKDs should be transparent from the outset, with clear requirements and procedures, as many circles have already discussed. It is hoped that this will be the case.
In May 2022 began the process of filling the acting regional posts of five governorships, 37 regentships and 6 mayorships.
Acting regional heads (PKDs) are to be appointed in 101 regions this year and in 171 regions next year. As such, the government is assigning a total of 272 PKDs by 2024. This is half the total number of provinces, regencies and municipalities in Indonesia.
Apart from their large number, the PKDs’ terms in office are also very long, lasting until the simultaneous regional elections (Pilkada) on 27 Nov. 2024, plus extra time until the elected leaders are confirmed by the Regional General Elections Commission (KPUD) and ready to install. This still does not count the possibility that the losing candidates might file lawsuits with the Constitutional Court.
Therefore, some PKDs could spend up to 2.5 years in office or more. Acting officials serving for such a long time has never happened in the history of Indonesia’s public administration. How should we view the legitimacy of PKDs in terms of democracy and technocracy?
Career vs political appointees
Law No. 10/2016 on the Second Amendment to Law No. 1/2015 on the provisions of Regulation in Lieu of Law No. 1/2014 on the Election of Governors, Regents and Mayors authorizes the government to appoint provincial PKDs from among high-ranking mid-level officials and regency/municipal PKDs from among high-ranking primary-level officials (Article 201, paragraphs 10 and 11), until the governors, regents and mayors elected in the 2024 simultaneous Pilkada are installed.
The appointment of public servants (PNS) as PKD is certainly based on the rationale that PNS have experience and professionalism in making public policy and public management. This is assumed to guarantee the smooth running of public administration, services and development.
PNS, in their status and role as civil servants (ASN), are career appointees who normally occupy posts based on their career grades, professionalism and the merit system in the bureaucracy.
Meanwhile, PKDs as heads of autonomous regions are political appointees who have political and administrative authority over their region. The differences between PNS and PKD can give rise to polemic about political legitimacy in running regional administrations. What about the legitimacy of PNS appointed as PKD, whereas members of regional legislative councils (DPRDs) are political officials directly elected by the regional populace?
Some issues may arise in the context of this discourse. First, the terms of office of PKDs are very long, more than half that of directly elected regional heads. The length of their terms in office, of course, significantly affects the PKDs’ level of accountability and public acceptance. The outcome could be positive or negative.
In the technocratic perspective, high-ranking PNS (of the middle and primary levels) are those who have gone through the long process of gaining knowledge and experience in public administration. This guarantees their professionalism in planning, budgeting and implementing development programs.
For this reason, it is possible to further improve government performance in terms of public service quality enhancement and high development achievements.
However, in the democratic perspective, the degree of the PKDs’ acceptance in the eyes of DPRD members and the local people is certainly questionable as they are viewed not as directly elected officials, but rather as central government appointees.
This surely raises the issue of political support from the DPRD and regional public for various development programs. A DPRD block on approving the development budget might occur during their two years in office.
This polemic is based on certain political interests in the positive sense, involving the likelihood that PKD, which are PNS, are capable of bringing about remarkable regional advancement. A case in point is whether a direct regional election is necessary to elect regional heads if PNS appointed as PKD under the central government mechanism offers proof of significant regional progress. This factor may also cause DPRDs to resist PKD. The aspects of democracy and technocracy in PKD appointments are an interesting laboratory of politics and local administrations, while at the same time they bear a risk of failure in the execution of regional administrations.
The second problem is how to protect the neutrality of PKDs from political intervention and cooptation. A Kompas article (18/4/2022) indicated that various figures with the potential to become PKDs have been lobbying a number of politicians and political parties.
Several politicians have admitted to this practice. Some candidates were ready to secure and ensure their victories in the 2024 general elections and support different political/business interests in their regions. These politicians’ statements serve as proof that political economy is a very significant factor in the process of appointing PKDs and subsequently, has a strong impact on professionalism and government performance.
This fact, while disrupting the fair, honest and open political process of the 2024 general elections, will also prompt them to ignore the focus on providing quality public services. PKDs will find it hard to encourage bureaucratic change and effective administration of the regions. Moreover, central-regional rivalry exists between politicians and political parties in seizing authority through PKDs.
Risk mitigation and solution
PKDs’ two and a half years of administering a region will carry risks. The source of the risks is the PKDs’ authority to undertake long-term administration under their “official” status.
There has never been a precedent of this, so it is something new in Indonesia. Law No. 10/2016 on the General Elections has no clear-cut provisions on the authority of PKDs. Three regulations can provide a basis: Law No. 23/2014 on Regional Administrations; Government Regulation No. 49/2008 on the Election, Validation, Appointment and Termination of Regional Heads and Deputy Regional Heads; and Home Ministerial Regulation No. 74/2016 on Unpaid
Leave for Governors and Deputy Governors, Regents and Deputy Regents, and Mayors and Deputy Mayors.
Sadly, the authority of PKDs is not explicitly defined in these regulations. Conversely, they stipulate only prohibitions in Government Regulation No. 49/2008, Article 132, paragraphs 1 and 2.
This article specifies various prohibitions for PKD: (1) transferring personnel; (2) annulling previously issued licenses and/or issuing licenses contrary to previously issued licenses; (3) adopting policies on regional divisions that are contrary to previous policies; and (4) adopting policies that are contrary to previous policies on public administration and development programs.
Nonetheless, these prohibitions can be granted exceptions by obtaining written approval from the Home Minister. This will delay the implementation of regional policies, besides creating the potential for political intervention.
The lack of clarity over their authority and prohibitions can raise other risks, including PKDs being reluctant to make decisions and adopt strategic policies as defined in Law No. 30/2014 on Public Administration as regards the aspects of organization, personnel, budgeting, potential for conflict with the DPRD due to political and party rivalries; bureaucratic opposition and resistance in ASN appointments; and public service stagnancy.
Therefore, it is necessary to develop a breakthrough government regulation on PKDs’ authority and execution of duties. The President, as the holder of government authority based on the 1945 Constitution, Article 4, Paragraph 1, can take the discretion to delegate authority to appointed PKDs. This delegation is necessary and is in line with Law No. 30/2014 on Public Administration.
In delegating their authority, PKDs can adopt various strategic policies and take responsibility for the resulting legal consequences in guaranteeing effective regional administration. This legal basis is also important as an instrument to protect PKDs from the crime of corruption. Furthermore, the process of appointing PKDs should be transparent from the outset, with clear requirements and procedures, as many circles have already discussed. It is hoped that this will be the case.
Eko Prasojo, Professor, Faculty of Administrative Science, University of Indonesia; Executive Secretary, National Bureaucratic Reform Steering Committee (KPRBN)
This article was translated by Aris Prawira.