INDONESIA – In a recent statement, President Joko Widodo, widely known as Jokowi, has definitively stated that he will not partake in campaigning for the upcoming 2024 elections. This declaration comes just a week before the polling day scheduled for 14 February.
The affirmation was made by Jokowi during a press conference at the Limapuluh Toll Gate in Batubara Regency, North Sumatra, on Wednesday (7 Feb). He responded to inquiries regarding his potential involvement in the campaign, reiterating his stance not to engage in the electoral process actively.
“Who said so? I want to reaffirm my previous statement that the President is indeed allowed by law to campaign, and I have already shown the regulations. But if the question is whether I will campaign? I answer: No, I will not campaign,” stated Jokowi.
Earlier, Jokowi had mentioned during an official press briefing that he is permitted by the Election Law to participate in campaigning. His initial remarks were made while addressing journalists at the Halim Perdanakusuma Air Force Base in Jakarta on Wednesday (24 Jan).
During this interaction, Jokowi emphasized that a President is allowed to engage in campaigning during elections. Furthermore, he highlighted that a President is also entitled to support specific candidates.
“The important thing is, the President is allowed to campaign. The President is allowed to take sides. Allowed,” remarked Jokowi.
Despite being a public official, Jokowi emphasized that the President should not utilize state facilities during campaigning. “We are both public officials and political figures. It’s okay to be political. It’s okay. Ministers are also allowed,” he added.
Jokowi’s statements triggered tumult and speculation that he might favour certain candidates and not remain neutral in the 2024 elections.
Responding to the ensuing unrest, Jokowi held a special press conference at the Presidential Palace on Friday (26 Jan), urging the public and all parties not to misconstrue his statements regarding the President’s ability to campaign and take sides.
“It’s all clear. So once again, don’t twist things around. Don’t interpret them differently. I’m just conveying the provisions of the laws because I was asked,” emphasized Jokowi in his statement, which was broadcasted on the Presidential Secretariat’s YouTube channel.
President’s Special Staff Coordinator, Ari Dwipayana, also reaffirmed that President Jokowi has no plans to campaign in the 2024 Presidential Election. He stated that Jokowi will focus on his duties and responsibilities.
Ari clarified that Jokowi’s recent visits to several regions were part of his official agenda and not related to campaigning.
Explaining the distinction between campaigning and official visits, Ari highlighted that official visits involve fulfilling the duties of the head of state to absorb aspirations and ensure the implementation of planned programs. On the other hand, campaigning aims to garner support.
However, despite Jokowi’s clarifications, the unrest persisted, particularly on social media platforms. Academicians began issuing statements or petitions against the government, expressing concerns about the current state of democracy in Indonesia.
The movement started with a gathering of academics from Gadjah Mada University (UGM), including professors, lecturers, students, and alumni at the Auditorium of the Gajah Mada University (UGM) on Wednesday (31 Jan). They presented the Bulaksumur Petition to address the current state of national politics, which they deemed to be deviating from democratic norms.
They called on Jokowi and his administration to realign with democratic principles and prioritize the values of democracy and social justice. The petition gained momentum and spread rapidly among various universities, with dozens joining the cause.
Regarding Jokowi’s statement, netizens also joined the conversation. Comments on KOMPAS‘ Twitter post largely expressed distrust, linking it to issues such as the distribution of social assistance before the polling day and criticism among academics.
“The signs and campaign movements have long been visible, Mr President. What you said is just a form of image-building when campuses, intellectuals, and academics are mobilizing. What else does Mr President want to show?” wrote @k_tuaeth***.
“The question is not whether Jokowi campaigns. It’s not about that. Since his son became a vice-presidential candidate, he has been campaigning, using state funds. What about distributing social assistance on the palace grounds? What about combining three months’ worth of social assistance? What is that?” remarked @GybrantR***.
“For the president, anything goes. Free! No one can prohibit a president,” commented @budi_***.
“I’m not campaigning. But those behind me are campaigning using state facilities. The Presidential Regulation about officials not having to take leave during campaigns has been used by your aides, Mr @jokowi,” @TouhaUl*** commented.
Presidential candidate number 1, Anies Baswedan, also responded to the issue. He emphasized the importance of certainty in society. Anies touched upon the ethics of governance, stating that ethical standards must be upheld. “This is what we have emphasized from the beginning: in governance, we adhere to ethics, we adhere to manners, so that there is consistency over time,” said Anies to reporters in Samarinda, East Kalimantan, on Wednesday (7 Feb).
Presidential candidate number 3, Ganjar Pranowo, respected President Jokowi’s statement of not participating in the 2024 Election campaign. Ganjar deemed Jokowi’s stance commendable, especially amid protests regarding democratic practices raised by academics and civil society.
“If there is such a stance, I highly respect it. Not campaigning is much better,” he stated after attending the Ganjar-Mahfud people’s party event at Tamanagung Square, Muntilan, Magelang, Central Java, on Wednesday (7 Feb) afternoon.
Ganjar hoped that Jokowi’s stance would be followed by other government institutions to remain neutral. “If that can be done, I truly respect it. So that we can restore democracy to the right track,” he emphasized.
Currently, the Election Law is under scrutiny in the Constitutional Court. The lawsuit was filed by an advocate named Gugum Ridho Putra, he questions provisions allowing state officials to campaign, as stipulated in articles 281 and 299. In his petition, the plaintiff argues that the Election Law fails to consider nepotism and abuse of power during campaigns.
However, during the hearing, the representative of President Joko Widodo, represented by the Acting Director-General of Politics and General Administration of the Ministry of Home Affairs, Togap Simanungsong, requested that the Constitutional Court maintain the allowance for the president to campaign in the 2024 Election.
Togap also referenced Law Number 39 of 1999 concerning Human Rights (HAM) in his argument during the ongoing hearing on the challenge to the Election Law regarding the articles concerning the president and vice president’s right to campaign at the Constitutional Court building on Tuesday (6 Feb).
“Participation of the president, vice president, ministers, governors, vice governors, regents, deputy regents, mayors, and deputy mayors in the election should be understood as their stance to choose one of the election participants, both when using their voting rights and expressing support for one of the election participants by encouraging others to vote for a specific candidate or campaigning with one of the candidates,” he explained.
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