Electoral neutrality

Kompas Newspaper – November 15, 2023

Woman: Don't look left, don't look right, let alone give a "code"... you must stay neutral Mr.

Man (with "No practical politics" written on back): A message for village heads, right?

Man (with ASN on back): A message for us too!

On November 13, the General Elections Commission (KPU) announced that all three presidential candidates and their running mates, including the 36-year-old son of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, had fulfilled the administrative requirements to participate in the February 14, 2024 presidential election.

The three tickets, Anies Baswedan-Muhaimin Iskandar, Ganjar Pranowo-Mahfud MD and Prabowo Subianto-Gibran Rakabuming Raka will compete to replace President Widodo and Vice President Ma'ruf Amin, whose terms will end on October 20 next year.

But for the first time since the fall of the New Order dictatorship of former president Suharto in 1998, legitimate concerns loom over the integrity and fairness of the coming election.

These concerns began with public remarks by President Widodo that he would actively interfere to find a successor who could secure his legacy.

Fears that he was planning to tip the balance in favor of a certain political candidate grew stronger on October 16 when the Constitutional Court, which was led by his brother-in-law, Anwar Usman, lowered the minimum age limit for presidential and vice presidential candidates, thereby paving the way for his eldest son Rakabuming Raka to contest the elections.

The public's fears were confirmed only days later when Rakabuming Raka was nominated to run alongside Widodo's preferred candidate Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto.

Speculation that the state apparatus will not remain neutral in the elections was further strengthened when Widodo chose a close ally, Agus Subiyanto, as the new commander of the Indonesian Military (TNI).

And despite publically hosting the three presidential contenders at the State Palace and calls by Widodo for state civil servants (ASN), government officials and ministers to remain neutral, this appears to be nothing more than rhetoric.

There have already been several incidents indicating a breaches of neutrality by the state apparatus, such as the removal of election campaign posters of Pranowo and Mahfud in Bali and North Sumatra by public order officials and the last-minute revocation of a permit to organise a discussion featuring Baswedan in Bandung, West Java.

And adding to concerns about potential pork barrel politics related to extending the terms of village officials, Deputy Villages and Development and Disadvantaged Region Minister Paiman Rahardjo was seen in video footage leading a meeting of volunteers supporting Rakabuming Raka.