Does President participation in election campaign legitimate Under Constitution of 1945?

On 24 January 2024, President, Jokowi Widodo, declared his intention to be involved in election campaign.

My  loyalty to my party ends when my loyalty to my country begins. This postulate is introduced by President Filipina, Manuel L Quezon (1935-1944) then it was repeated by John F Kennedy as US President (1961-1963). This political statement showed that as supreme leader of the state, should avoid the personal interest and oligarchy interest when He becomes a president because him-self  is a people representative not the political party.

On 24 January 2024, President, Jokowi Widodo, declared his intention to be involved in election campaign. He said that president has an equal right to conduct and support candidate in presidential election as long as it did without using the state facility.

This statement emerged a debate and a protest amongst societies and also became a concerns of constitutional law expert in Indonesia. The big question should a president intervenes the process of the democracy? What it the standard of neutrality of government official in election process?

The abusive presidential Power is a global phenomenon. Landau and Dixon says this condition indicates in many types such as court packing, court grabbing and also legislative packing.  It felt during the last term of President Jokowi’ s administration. He utilized many ways to retain the power under his control.  It is begun by the controversy of vice president candidacy, Gibran Rakabuming Raka. Allegedly, the nomination of his son is supposedly breaking the law by using the judiciary power to review the age requirements term. The abusive action is not only stop there, nowadays, President clearly expressed his own interest to be involved in campaign.

According to 1945 Constitution, President is not only the head of government but also the head of state. Both of role are played by the president. Under the presidential system president plays a significant role for instance He is a symbol of the state thus He should stands and becomes neutral. If president reveals His alignments to one of three presidential candidates, it automatically ruins the fair-play democracy battle field amongst them. Meanwhile  the one of the election principles explicitly mentioned about the neutrality of authorities and officials during the election time. If president actively participates in election campaign, it potentially commits the conflict of interest and potentially violates the election acts. More elaborated it breaks the Administrative Government Laws which says Conflict of Interest is the condition of government officials who have a personal interest to benefit themselves and/or others in the use of authority so as to affect the neutrality and quality of decisions and/or actions made and/or carried out. No one cannot ensure the president to be impartial. His participation will destabilize the political outlook of election and will di-couple societies.

President is not like an ordinary person. The president power attached with a huge power upon his position. For example, It is stipulated under Article 10 in the constitution 1945, The president shall hold supreme authority over the army, the navy and the air force meaning that president possibly uses his power upon the military force because president has already showed his political preference in election. It is almost impossible that there is no moral hazard in the president campaign involvement.

Moreover, President wielding the authorities upon the ministers thus it easily leads the them to facilitate his own intention by allocating some programs to support the campaign process. This condition will be bringing the democracy into the dangerous situation. The limitless power of president becomes abusive to win the specific candidate. It obviously contradicts to the principle of justice in election stated on article  22E para 1 Constitution of 1945. Two of principles are “justice and free”. Justice means that every candidate has the equal rights and equal treatment during the election meanwhile the involving of president has been created unbalance political landscape amongst participants. Furthermore the circumstance violates the “free principle” interpreting as no interference and intervene from other powers in election process.

If president keeps going with his intention, it would make the lame democracy architecture in Indonesia. As a consequence, president can be likely removed from his position because the action indicates un admissible under the constitution. The house of representative has an opportunity to active the article of impeachment due to miss-conduct allegation. Mr. president should terminate his desire to join in supporting specific candidate before his action massively causes the democracy erosion because it will be copying by other government officials  to justify his involvement in political party campaign.

Ari Wirya Dinata
Ari Wirya Dinata
Lecturer in Constitutional Law, University of Bengkulu