Jokowi slammed over statement president, ministers can take sides in election

Tribun News – January 24, 2024
Widodo (centre) speaks to reporters alongside Prabowo Subianto at Halim Air Force base – January 24, 2024 (Tribun)

Malvyandie Haryadi, Jakarta – On Wednesday January 24, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo stated that public officials from the president to ministers are allowed to take sides in the elections as long as they do not use state facilities.

The statement attracted widespread public attention given that it was issued by the president in the midst of many alleged cases of non-neutrality and fraudulent practices involving the state apparatus in the organisation of the 2024 elections.

Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI) Chairperson Muhammad Isnur, who is part of the Civil Society Coalition, is of the view that Widodo's statement is very dangerous. Because, according to Isnur, it could encourage widespread practices of fraud in the elections.

"It is important to note, in the 2024 election contestation it is very clear that the president and state institution's have sided with one of the candidates from the start, starting by giving out ministerial positions, the involvement of ministers in supporting a presidential and vice presidential candidate, one who is an active minister and the other the president's son, who advanced to an election seat through a [Constitutional Court] ruling by his uncle who is the presidents brother-in-law", he said, referring to the presidential ticket of Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto and running mate Gibran Rakabuming Raka.

Aside from this, continued Isnur, the involvement of state institutions to promote these candidates is becoming blatantly obvious, namely through the deployment of defense and security forces in election activities to install election billboards supporting one of the pairs of presidential candidates.

"Jokowi should stop the political game that utilises state institutions and ensure his neutrality in the 2024 election contestation. All those involved in the nominations and [campaign] support teams should resign from their positions because they are prone to be misused for electoral political interests."

"However, instead of making corrections and giving strict and firm sanctions to officials who have allegedly abused their power to commit election fraud, President Jokowi has in fact taken a political position that that encourages various fraudulent practices being more open and even receiving legitimacy", he said.

The Civil Society Coalition believes that the president's statement will further open space for the abuse of state facilities for the political interest of ensuring the victory of certain candidates in the 2024 election.

The use of state facilities for the purpose of political interests clearly violates the principle that elections should be carried out honestly, fairly, freely and democratically.

Therefore, public officials and state civil servants cannot and are not allowed to use or utilise their positions for electoral political interests ahead of the election as stated explicitly under Article 281 Paragraph (1) of Law Number 7/2017 on Elections.

"It is important for all parties, especially in this case the president, to ensure that the organisation of the 2024 elections proceed democratically and prioritise the principles of honesty, fairness and freedom."

Isnur added that the Coalition is urging the president to immediately take time off and hand over authority to the vice president to exercise the president's activities.

"It would be far better if the president was aware of this himself and withdraw from the position of president and make himself free from the politics of winning the elections. If the president does not immediately apply for leave or withdraw following his statement today, the potential for election fraud will be high and very likely to occur".

"Then, asking all public officials who have nominated themselves or joined election campaign teams in the election to resign from their positions to prevent abuse of power and state facilities", he asserted.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Koalisi Masyarakat Sipil Kritik Jokowi Soal Presiden & Menteri Boleh Memihak: Ini Berbahaya".]