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Jokowi sparks controversy by asserting right to campaign for candidates

Indonesian President Jokowi sparks controversy, asserting the right to campaign; critics express disappointment and concern over potential misuse of state facilities in upcoming Indonesian elections.

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INDONESIA – Indonesian President Joko Widodo has stirred controversy by asserting his right to campaign and support candidates in the upcoming presidential election.

The president emphasized the importance of avoiding the misuse of state facilities for political purposes, a statement that has sparked debates and criticisms from various quarters.

In a recent statement, President Jokowi stated, “The president can campaign. The president can take sides. We are public officials and, at the same time, political officials. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

This declaration came after he handed over fighter jets to the Indonesian National Armed Forces alongside Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto at Halim Perdanakusuma Air Base in East Jakarta on Wednesday (24 Jan).

President Joko Widodo has never overtly endorsed any presidential candidate in the 2024 election, including his eldest son, Gibran Rakabuming Raka, who is running as part of the Presidential Coalition led by Prabowo.

Despite Jokowi’s assurance of his neutrality, rival factions have repeatedly raised concerns about the president’s stance and the potential impact on the electoral process.

In response to the controversy, Vice Presidential candidate Mahfud Md, endorsed by the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), asserted that he had never utilized state facilities as the Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal, and Security Affairs to engage in campaign activities.

He also took a subtle swipe at ministers in the Cabinet of Working Indonesia who, despite having no official political affiliations, were involved in campaign teams.

Speaking at the ‘Tabrak Prof’ event in Semarang, Central Java, on Tuesday (23 Jan), Mahfud emphasized his commitment to avoiding the use of state resources for political gain. This statement comes at a time when political figures are under scrutiny for potential ethical violations in the run-up to the presidential election.

President Joko Widodo, questioned about his leanings in the 2024 election during the event at Halim, responded with a counter-question to reporters, “I ask, am I taking sides?” He stressed once again that the crucial factor is not to misuse state facilities for personal or political gain.

The Presidential Palace has previously dismissed rumors of President Joko Widodo favoring a particular candidate in the upcoming election.

Ari Dwipayana, the Coordinator of the President’s Special Staff, asserted that President Jokowi remains focused on governance in the lead-up to the election.

“His work is to lead the government and ensure that the implementation of strategic programs in the Cabinet of Working Indonesia is truly delivered and felt beneficial by the people,” stated Ari on Thursday (4 Jan).

The public response to President Jokowi’s statements has been mixed, with a significant number expressing disappointment and anger. Like the news channel Tempo‘s post on platform X is flooded with comments from netizens, with many users expressing their discontent and questioning the president’s commitment to neutrality.

(Source: X Platform/@tempodotco)

One user, @AirinData****, commented, “Just declare it directly. Your life is so complicated.”

Another user, @Billiar***, echoed the sentiment of disappointment and anger, saying, “Is it that obvious, sir? Do you consider us, the people, fools who can only remain silent?”

Comparisons were drawn between President Jokowi and the late Prof. B.J. Habibie, the 3rd President of Indonesia, with @coldt*** stating, “Not a true statesman like (the late) Prof. B.J. Habibie. Although he held office for a very short period, he opened the doors to democracy and restrained himself from interfering in the conduct of elections. Meanwhile, this one, having served two terms, still interferes and fails to demonstrate neutrality in elections, like someone who can’t find peace in his retirement as president.”

(Source: X Platform/@tempodotco)

Criticism also focused on the apparent double standard, as @robbyf*** commented, “Civil servants can’t even take photos without rules, but high-ranking officials, from ministers to the president, can campaign. Huh!”

In response to the criticism, @rabkaamatar*** humorously commented, “Bye soft selling. Welcome ‘OK. FULL SPEED!” reflecting a sentiment that President Jokowi’s statements may be aggravating public sentiment rather than winning support.

(Source: X Platform/@tempodotco)

@SaveOurEart*** expressed concern about the president’s actions, stating, “This man is only provoking the anger of the people,” while @anaklok*** questioned the president’s commitment to his inauguration oath, stating, “Does the President’s oath to be just mean campaigning for one party and group? If not, then you have violated the PRESIDENTIAL OATH. It means denying God, the Almighty, and denying the Constitution,” along with attaching a segment of Joko Widodo’s oath during his presidential inauguration.

“I swear by Allah, I will fulfill my duties as the President of the Republic of Indonesia to the best of my abilities and with utmost fairness, upholding the 1945 Constitution, adhering to all laws and regulations, and dedicating myself to the nation and the people.”

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