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Indonesian universities urged to maintain neutrality amidst political landscape ahead of 2024 Election

Amidst Indonesia’s political climate leading up to the 2024 Presidential Election, education authorities stress universities’ duty to remain politically impartial.

The recent Constitutional Court ruling on 15 August bars worship-based political campaigns but permits them in certain settings with permissions.

The emphasis is on campuses to remain neutral, rise above tensions, and ensure unhindered teaching and learning.



INDONESIA: Responding to the recent Constitutional Court decision (Number 65/PUU-XXI/2023) on Election Law Article 280, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Research, and Technology (Kemdikbudristek) highlights universities’ obligation to uphold distance and neutrality from political involvements.

The decision, issued on 15 August, prohibits political campaigns within places of worship while allowing campaigns in government facilities, schools, and campuses, provided they have obtained permission from responsible authorities.

Relevant parties are also allowed to attend these events without campaign attributes.

“We hope that amidst the dynamics, campuses can keep their distance, remain neutral, and rise above the fray. We aim for a safe, peaceful political situation that doesn’t divide the nation,” stated the Acting Director General of Higher Education, Research, and Technology at Kemdikbudristek, Nizam, when contacted on Wednesday (23 Aug).

The Ministry of Education Responds to Constitutional Court’s Decision Allowing Campaigns on Campus. (Photo: the documentary of the Cabinet Secretariat).

Campuses urged to safeguard educational integrity amidst political activities

Nizam further emphasized that political activities should not disrupt the teaching and learning activities on campuses.

Therefore, he urged campuses to refrain from affiliating directly with any political activities.

The ministry is currently studying ways to ensure campuses maintain their integrity and neutrality.

“We are not yet aware of the exact regulations as we are still studying the rules and other regulations, such as those governing civil servants who are prohibited from campaigning.

However, there are many civil servants within campuses, so that might require further examination,” he explained.

The decision has raised varied responses from educational practitioners. The National Executive Board of the Education and Teachers Association (P2G) expressed concerns about campaigns in educational institutions, as they could disrupt the learning process.

Similarly, the Federation of Indonesian Teachers’ Union (FSGI) stated that the decision could jeopardize the safety of students and university students, arguing that educational institutions should remain neutral spaces for public interest rather than campaigning.

Ubaid Matraji, Coordinator of the Indonesian Education Monitoring Network (JPPI), shared these concerns.

He predicted that the court’s decision could have negative repercussions on the education ecosystem, potentially leading to conflicts and violence among students and within schools and universities.

Ubaid recommended that campuses and educational institutions organize forums that are more educational than provocative, focusing on intellectual discussions backed by arguments and data.

He stressed the importance of political education for young voters, as the absence of such education could lead to conflicts and violence.

He further suggested the formulation of detailed rules to govern political activities and campaigns within educational institutions, possibly by the General Elections Commission (KPU), Election Supervisory Body (Bawaslu), or the Ministry of Education, Culture, Research, and Technology.

These regulations are essential to preserve the dignity of education against the disruptive influences of politicians vying for electoral victory.

The Indonesian Child Protection Commission (KPAI) also expressed regret over the Constitutional Court’s decision.

KPAI Commissioner Sylvana Apituley argued that campaigns should not be permitted within educational spaces, as schools should remain neutral from political activities.

Illustration: A classroom.

Safeguarding youth from inappropriate campaign content amidst election buzz

Sylvana highlighted the inappropriate content often found in political campaigns, which might not be suitable for children even if they are 17 years old and have voting rights.

She stressed the importance of political education, citizenship, and human rights for students and young voters.

KPAI revealed findings from a 10-year monitoring effort, identifying 15 instances of abuse, exploitation, and violence against children during and after election campaigns.

KPAI has coordinated with the General Elections Commission to contribute input to campaign regulations, aiming to ensure the protection and fulfilment of children’s rights during election periods.

Efforts are underway to develop comprehensive regulations that protect the integrity of educational spaces while accommodating the realities of political campaigns.

The delicate balance between political engagement and maintaining a conducive learning environment remains at the forefront of discussions surrounding this Constitutional Court decision.

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