Rank and position is actually a test. Therefore, they must be trustworthy in carrying out their duties. This principle is firmly held by Ilham Saputra, as Plt. and now Chairman of the General Election Commission (KPU) of the Republic of Indonesia 2021-2022. He was elected after the previous official, Arief Budiman, was deactivated by the Election Organizing Honorary Council (DKPP). Being a commissioner and now the chairman of the KPU is proof, what kind of strategy does he have to avoid the temptations of the left and the right? He shared his story with the VOI Team.
Ilham Saputra added to the list of Acehnese men who are believed to be the top holders of the KPU leadership. Previously another Acehnese son who held this position was Prof. Dr. Nazaruddin Sjamsuddin, MA, who served as Chairman of the RI KPU for the 2003-2008 period.
Holds a position as commissioner of Plt. The chairman and now the definitive chairman make Ilham Saputra have to be extra careful. He must not fall into the same hole as his predecessor who had to give up his position. “As members of the KPU, we try not to do things that are against the rules and regulations. For example, manipulating voices, then also taking actions that are not in accordance with morality,” said the man who likes soccer and cycling.
Before becoming the chairman of the KPU RI, replacing Arief Budiman who was inactive due to ethical and legal issues, he was already a commissioner of the KPU RI. And Ilham has a track record in the world of elections. Ilham has been involved in organizations that focus on election issues (General Elections). From 1999 to 2004 he was involved in the Program Officer of the Center for Electoral Reform. He also served as deputy chairman of the Aceh Independent Election Commission and concurrently member of 2008-2013.
As an official who continues the term of office of the previous KPU chairman, he is not grandiose, his main task is to carry out several re-elections (PSU) and prepare the agenda for the upcoming general elections and Pilres. To Iqbal Irsyad, Edy Suherli, Savic Rabos, and Irfan Meidianto from VOI he told many stories during the interview and photo shoot session at the KPU RI office, Jl. Imam Bonjol, Menteng, Central Jakarta, recently. Here is the full interview excerpt.
What will you do in your leadership term?
I just served as the Acting Chairperson of the KPU in April 2021. In another year our term of office as KPU commissioners is over. The task that we have to complete with our fellow commissioners is to complete several re-votings (PSU) in various regions. Then we are also preparing the draft stages of the General Election and Regional Head General Election in 2024. We want to finish these programs so that we have a legacy for our friends who will sit as commissioners for the next period.
Being a member of the KPU RI is like sitting in the hot seat, the chairman and several members stumble into legal problems. Just say it; Arief Budiman, how do you deal with this situation?
Maintaining integrity is important, why do I say that because this institution is highlighted by the public and those who have an interest in politics. Actually, there is already internal and external supervision from Bawaslu. Then if an election organizer like me is suspected of an ethical violation, it can be reported. As members of the KPU, we try not to do things that are contrary to the rules and regulations. For example manipulating voices, then also doing what actions are not in accordance with morality.
Actually what happened with Mr. Arief Budiman is debatable. If I say it's not an ethical violation. However, because the Election Organizers Honorary Council (DKPP) has stated that, we respect what has been decided by the DKPP.
In the context of being the Chairman of the KPU, I was asked to meet many people. For me, when it comes to organizing elections, it is better to meet at the KPU office. I will also invite several commissioners to the meeting. Because the KPU is a collegial collective. It was not Ilham Saputra himself who decided. At the meeting it was not right for me to keep it that way and then all of us were not in accordance with the law and known by all members.
Have you ever been questioned by the police regarding your duties as a KPU commissioner (reported by Oesman Sapta Odang), was that a lesson for you?
Actually, after the scheduled examination of Pak Pramono and Pak Arief Budiman, I was the one who was examined the next day. The schedule is no longer an examination. We, as an election management body, act and work in accordance with the provisions of the laws and regulations. In the case of Mr. Oso (Oesman Sapta Odang), we still adhere to the Constitutional Court's decision even though there is a decision by the Administrative Court and the Supreme Court. We consider that what has been decided by the Court is correct. What we have decided is in accordance with the laws and regulations.
Being a member of the KPU and also the KPUD, there are many temptations, how do you deal with it yourself?
I have experience, I have previously been in the Deputy Chair of the Independent Election Commission for Aceh or the KPU in Aceh. I avoid meeting people. Usually that person comes during recapitulation, they try to change the voice. If that's the case I always avoid gatherings that invite outside. There were also those who tried to come to my house, and were immediately met by my relatives with suitcases and so on. When there is a Constitutional Court hearing related to the election results, there are usually lots of people who then contact, but I believe that I am working in accordance with the laws and regulations. I dare not break what I promise/oath. This is a matter of principle and such things must be maintained. If you want to be rich, just do business outside, not in the KPU.
KPU members must maintain their neutrality above all political parties (political parties), how do you maintain that neutrality?
That each of us must have a tendency. When you become a member of the Indonesian KPU, you must work according to the rules and above all groups. Services to the electorate must serve them in equal portions. With parties A, B and so on in a balanced way. We will serve according to the existing portion. Maintain fairness in treating candidates equally. So far, there have been no reports of neutrality.
The same thing happened to my brother (Yuga Aden) in the Sandiaga Uno Team. He has worked there as a professional since Sandiaga Uno became a candidate for Deputy Governor of DKI Jakarta 2017. Then I already stated to my friends at the Indonesian KPU that I had a brother before he was a journalist who worked professionally with Sandiaga Uno. As long as I'm on duty Yuga can't influence me. As long as I declare this matter according to KPU rules, it doesn't matter.
The KPU is not a state official, but the spotlight on KPU commissioners is very often done. Especially during the presidential election yesterday, how netizens made memes about commissioners who didn't like our performance. For example, Mr. Arief Budiman, when he was still the chairman of the KPU, created a meme as the inventor of the cardboard ballot box. I've been made that way too. That's a job risk. Affected yes, but I'm not angry even though I was disappointed. We cannot satisfy all parties, we work according to the existing rules
The pandemic is still happening in Indonesia, at the end of last year there was a polemic whether the election was held or not, but with various considerations it was finally carried out with strict Prokes (Health Protocols). How would you evaluate the direct General Election at the end of 2020?
Yes, once again I want to say that the KPU works in accordance with the existing laws. Our people are in accordance with existing laws that work because. The 2019 election was the first time we held an election by combining the presidential election (presidential election) with the legislative election (legislative election) which had never been before. We're trying to set it up technically. How was it implemented if we saw in the 2009 General Election in the law.
In every general election, there are officers who die, but maybe yesterday, because the first time we held a merger between the Pilleg and the Presidential Election, there were 700 officers who died of illness due to various reasons, such as fatigue and accidents. There's an issue of this being killed or something, that's not true. Finally, UGM and UI did a research, which resulted in no such element. In 2020 the General Elections will be held with strict health protocols. Despite various limitations, the election was finally able to be held. I was touched to see that in the field people came to vote at the appointed time. Elections in Indonesia are actually a record, because they can be held in one day. Compare that in India, which is carried out in several stages.
For the 2024 presidential election, it is still a debate whether there will be two or more candidates, how to anticipate this situation and what are the opportunities for e-voting to be implemented?
There were more than two presidential candidates in the 2004 presidential election, at that time there were 5 pairs of candidates in the first round (Wiranto-Salahuddin Wahid, Megawati-Hasyim Muzadi, Amien Rais-Siswono, SBY-JK, and Hamza Haz-Agum Gumelar). Because no one got more than 50% of the votes, the second round of Mega-Hasyim and SBY-JK was held. And at that time it was SBY-JK who was successfully elected. For the Pileg, we ask that it be submitted in February 2024. If it is April, there is no result that can be used as a benchmark for choosing a candidacy. If the presidential election is only a technical matter.
Regarding e-voting, our problem is in recapitulation, not voting. If we do not support e-voting infrastructure. Our society prefers to gather to chat and when the count is done it's a scene, with a distinctive style and makes you laugh. So that's not Indonesia's problem.
There are foreign nationals in NTT who can become candidates and participate in the Regional Head General Election and win, how does the KPU see this?
Something like this also happened in Aceh when GAM had just changed to the Aceh Party. At that time there was a candidate who turned out to be a Norwegian citizen. Finally, it was negotiated and agreed on the incoming votes for the candidates (legislative candidates) concerned whose votes were for the party. Regarding Sabu Raijua, it turns out that he is a foreigner, the KPU has limited authority. And finally re-election. What determines this matter is the Police, Immigration and the Ministry of Home Affairs.
What can be done to prevent such cases from happening again?
There must be an update of population data from the Ministry of Home Affairs. There must be coordination between parties so that this matter can be resolved.
So far, it seems that the KPU is only carrying out its duties during the presidential and legislative elections every five years, how do you respond to this?
Many people have a misunderstanding about the election organizers. Elections are not only about elections and voting, counting votes. There is such a thing as a planned election cycle. How to prepare for the election, socialization, then voter education then what is the logistics preparation and so on. After the election there is a voter education program. We also take care of the interim changes of members of the DPR RI. So there are many things that the KPU does, not just an agenda every five years.
Ilham Saputra Learns Team Work from Soccer
Football is a sport that Ilham Saputra really likes. By rubbing the round skin with his colleagues he can release the tension and stress due to the pressure of the work that demands it. Aside from being a sport to maintain physical fitness, he can also learn from the soccer game strategies that are applied to win matches.
Football requires good team work. It is okay for someone to have high individual ability on the field, but that ability will not appear optimally if it is not supported by the other ten players. Teamwork is the key in every game. The goal is to break into the opponent's goal.
"We have to work together as a football team. No one should be individualistic if you want to win. Goals will not be achieved if you play alone without good teamwork. This is what I apply in my work at the office,” said the man who was born in Jakarta, May 21, 1976.
Then what is Ilham's position when playing football? "I'm usually on the right wing and help organize attacks in midfield. Yes, like the position of Steven Gerrald or Zinedine Zidane, who mostly manage attacks and supply the ball to players who are in the attacking position, as the spearhead. But occasionally he also attacks if there is an opportunity,” said the bald-headed man who had worked as Program Manager at the Aceh Development Fund (2005-2008).
Liverpool (England) and Juventus (Italy) are his two favorite football clubs. Especially for Liverpool, he is a big fan of the club nicknamed the Reds. Understandably, since childhood he has grown and developed with the club which is now Mohamed Salah's shelter.
“When I was a child, I was really amazed by the Liverpool club's actions that I watched on TVRI. At that time there was no private television like now which diligently broadcasts League matches in European countries such as the English League. It was the actions of Liverpool players that fascinated and admired the club until now in the Mohamed Salah era," he admitted.
Just so you know, at that time Liverpool were playing really well. They can win the Premier League and then also win the domestic league several times. One more thing about the fanatical supporters that made him even more impressed with the club, which has the slogan You'll Never Walk Alone. It's no wonder that above the entrance to his office is plastered with the words red typical of Liverpool. Several souvenirs related to the Reds are also in his collection and also decorate his office. Starting from posters, chair cushions, statues of players and so on.
Besides football, Ilham Saputra's favorite sports are cycling and mountain climbing. “I just reached the top of Mount Lawu last March. Sport is very important, especially for people who are over 40 years old like me. Thank God so far I have never been seriously ill. Or going to the hospital because of the workload I received,” said Ilham, who has also climbed Mount Seulawah in Aceh.
From Mount Seulawah he also cycled to Banda Aceh. The distance traveled by terrain up and down is about 80 km. “For me it is the best achievement in cycling. And I think it's amazing,” said Ilham, still cycling on the sidelines of his high activity at the KPU RI.
For bicycles he can still compromise by choosing a bicycle price that is not too expensive. But for soccer shoes, he is very fanatical about a sports shoe brand that he values well. According to him, it is undeniable that good shoes and from the brand he likes are very supportive of his performance when he is on the gridiron when rubbing the round leather. Prices don't lie. As the wise say, there is a form and there is a price. To get good quality goods, you have to spend quite a bit.
Ilham is not stingy in sharing his recipe for success in pursuing a career. According to him, before becoming a good leader, you must go through the process naturally and become a good follower. “The process is very important. Before becoming a good leader, you have to be a good follower. Just follow the process from small things like writing letters and delivering letters,” said Ilham, who also went through this process. He goes through the process of becoming a mail carrier.
“I used to be a man who delivered letters to the DPR. And never take work for granted. You must follow the steps to become a good follower before becoming a good leader. Don't complain too much when carrying out your duties,” said the alumni of the S-1 Political Science study program at the 2006 Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, University of Indonesia.
In addition to carrying out the duties of an institution that focuses on election issues, Ilham Saputra is also active in other organizations, such as Muhammadiyah and the Indonesian Political Science Association. He served as Deputy Chair of Wisdom, Law and Relations between Muhammadiyah Youth Institutions, 2006-2010 and became a Member of the Assembly, Law, Public Policy, Wisdom and Human Rights of the Muhammadiyah Regional Board of Aceh Province, 2016-2020.
For Ilham organization is a miniature and a place to learn to solve various life problems. “Through organizations we learn to solve problems. The problem is that the organization is a miniature of the problems we face in the future,” he said.
“Usually that person comes during recapitulation, they try to change the voice. If that's the case I always avoid gatherings that invite outside."Saputra's inspiration
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