Indonesia’s academics call for electoral integrity

Over the past few days, academic communities from at least 11 universities across the country have called on President Joko Widodo to ensure the elections are fair, free and accountable.

Nina A. Loasana

Nina A. Loasana

The Jakarta Post


University of Indonesia board of professors head Harkristuti Harkrisnowo (front, second right) delivers a speech at the university's campus in Depok, West Java, on Feb. 2, 2024. PHOTO: ANTARA/THE JAKARTA POST

February 5, 2024

JAKARTA – Academic communities across the country have called for a fair and accountable general election on Feb. 14 amid rising concerns about democratic decline in Indonesia.

On Saturday, members of Padjadjaran University (Unpad) in Bandung, West Java, made a public declaration calling on President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and political elites to “follow the law” and to uphold “the integrity and dignity” of the electoral process.

They highlighted facts and events they said demonstrated democratic decline under Jokowi’s presidency ahead of the February election, including the country’s poor corruption perception rating, the declawing of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) and the controversial Constitutional Court ruling that enabled Jokowi’s son to run for vice president.

“We’ve seen political elites exploit the law to legitimize problematic political, social and economic policies,” said professor Ganjar Kurnia who heads Unpad’s academic senate.

“Abusing power for the interests of the oligarchic elites will only lead to the failure of our sustainable development, the stagnation of economic growth, deepening poverty and the increase of wealth inequality,” he added.

The 2023 Corruption Perception Index (CPI), published by Berlin-based Transparency International last week, had Indonesia stagnating at 34 points for the second year in a row on a scale of 0 to 100, with 0 being extremely corrupt.

Read also: Indonesia’s graft fight stalls as CPI shows no improvement

Activists have blamed this on a 2019 amendment to the KPK Law backed by the Jokowi administration that systematically defanged the antigraft agency.

The Constitutional Court ruling late last year that paved the way for Jokowi’s eldest son, Gibran Rakabuming Raka, to become the running mate of presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto has deepened concerns about the country’s democracy and the integrity of the coming election. The court at the time was headed by the President’s brother-in-law, Anwar Usman, who was later found guilty of an ethics breach for using his position to influence the game-changing ruling.

Jokowi, who is barred from running for a third term, insists that he is entitled to support a presidential candidate of his or her choosing in his free time, provided he makes no use of government facilities while doing so.

Widespread criticism

The Unpad declaration was the latest in a series of university statements demanding a fair, accountable election.

Read also: UGM petition protests Jokowi administration’s ‘deviations’ from democracy

Dozens of professors of the University of Indonesia (UI) in Depok, West Java, held a press conference on Friday calling on politicians and state officials to “restore the country’s broken democracy”.

“Our country has lost its way because of unethical and deceitful power struggles. We’re concerned over the actions of the state apparatus and political elites who constantly break their oaths just to enrich themselves,” UI board of professors head Harkristuti Harkrisnowo said.

In an accompanying declaration, the UI professors condemned actions that stifled free expression, saying that some of their number had been “intimidated” by undisclosed individuals by text message after they unveiled the plan to make a declaration criticizing Jokowi.

UI also urged the government to ensure that all civil servants, government officials and members of the public were able to cast their votes freely in the upcoming polls, without any pressure to choose certain candidates.

Over the past few days, academic communities from at least 11 universities across the country, including Hasanuddin University (Unhas), the Indonesian Islamic University (UII) and Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University (UIN Jakarta), have called on Jokowi to ensure the elections are fair, free and accountable.

Jokowi’s own alma mater, Gadjah Mada University (UGM) in Yogyakarta, released the so-called Bulaksumur Petition on Wednesday accusing the President of “deviating” from democratic values and urging his administration and other authorities to remedy the situation.

Read also: Jokowi stresses civility, eastern values following UGM student protest

The petition says Jokowi, as a UGM graduate, should uphold the institution’s ideals by embracing the values of Pancasila and strengthening democratic processes.

Responding to the criticisms, Jokowi said on Friday that everyone in the academic community had the right to voice their opinions.

“Well, it’s their democratic right. Everyone has the right to speak and express opinions,” the President said.

Presidential special staff coordinator Ari Dwipayana said separately on Friday that criticism was necessary to improve democracy.

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