Indonesia’s executive branch impartiality in question after apparent endorsements of 2024 candidates

Jokowi and his cabinet members’ recent actions seem to contradict the President’s own assertions of neutrality in the upcoming elections.

Yerica Lai and Nina A. Loasana

Yerica Lai and Nina A. Loasana

The Jakarta Post


President Joko “Jokowi“ Widodo (right) gives a speech to 197 acting regional heads at the State Palace in Jakarta on Oct. 30, 2023. PHOTO: ANTARA/THE JAKARTA POST

November 3, 2023

JAKARTA – President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo may have pledged neutrality ahead of the 2024 elections, but he is facing renewed allegations of partiality after he and some of his deputy ministers offered public shows of support for presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto and his running mate Gibran Rakabuming Raka.

Deputy Agrarian and Spatial Planning Minister Raja Juli Antoni found himself in hot water recently for not-so-subtly endorsing the candidate pair in a social media post.

On Oct. 27, Raja posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, a photo taken at a hotel in Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara (NTT), with a caption about his activities during his official working trip there.He began his post with “selamat pagi” (good morning), followed by a definition of pagi as short for “Prabowo and Gibran”.

The post went viral, with a number of netizens questioning the propriety of an appointed executive branch official appearing to endorse a presidential candidate.

Aside from being a deputy minister, Raja is also the secretary-general of the Indonesian Solidarity Party (PSI), which declared its support for Prabowo’s presidential bid a day before the candidate registration period ended.

He posted a similar selamat pagi and definition on Sunday, followed by a quote from PSI chairman Kaesang Pangarep, who is Gibran’s brother, wishing Gibran and the party victory in the upcoming elections.

Deputy Villages, Disadvantaged Regions and Transmigration Minister Paiman Raharjo was subject to criticism online over a video showing him hosting a meeting of campaign volunteers discussing strategies to help Prabowo and Gibran win the 2024 election.

In the video, Paiman says the group’s mission is to “help Mas Gibran win the 2024 election”. He also told the group that he had reported the results of a previous volunteer meeting to Jokowi, State Secretary Pratikno, Gibran and Prabowo’s campaign team.

Read also: Candidates embrace ‘happy politics’ in search of peaceful election

Paiman told the press on Monday that he regularly held meetings with members of Sedulur Jokowi, a volunteer group that backed Jokowi in previous elections.

He dismissed public criticism of the meeting, noting that it was held on Sunday during his free time and that he had hosted it in his capacity as chairman of the volunteer group, not as deputy minister.

Analysts and members of the public also criticized President Jokowi for attending a lunch with his supporter group Arus Bawah Jokowi on the sidelines of his official working visit to Bali recently. During the lunch, the group expressed its support for Prabowo and Gibran’s campaign.

‘Inappropriate’ moves

Jokowi and his cabinet members’ recent actions seem to contradict the President’s own assertions of neutrality in the upcoming elections.

On Monday, Jokowi hosted the three registered 2024 presidential candidates for a luncheon, where he reportedly reassured them of his commitment to neutrality and maintaining the integrity of the state apparatus.

The luncheon took place after Jokowi summoned nearly 200 government-appointed acting regional leaders and urged them “not to pick sides” in the coming elections.

Read also: Jokowi claims neutrality at 2024 race luncheon

Political analyst Ray Rangkuti of Lingkar Madani said Jokowi’s meeting with his volunteer group during an official work trip was “inappropriate” and called on the President to stay neutral during the elections.

“The legitimacy of the election results hinges on public trust in the process. It’s very important that the President remains neutral so that the public won’t doubt the fairness and transparency of the elections,” Ray said.

Political analyst Adi Prayitno contended that the presidential endorsements from members of Jokowi’s cabinet were blatant violations of the Elections Law. Such violations, he said, would further erode public trust in the government’s claims of electoral neutrality.

“The public will never believe that the state apparatus will remain neutral in the 2024 elections after seeing these clear indications that they’re backing certain candidates,” said Adi.

He called on the Elections Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu) to reprimand the deputy ministers for their apparent endorsements, as they were violations of the principle of neutrality in the state apparatus.

Read also: Rights groups slam Jokowi for spying boast

This was not the first time Jokowi has been accused of using state resources to advance his political agenda.

The President previously boasted of having complete access to intelligence information about the internal affairs of every political party, collected by various intelligence institutions including the State Intelligence Agency (BIN).

The former Jakarta governor was also accused of seeking to establishing a political dynasty after the Constitutional Court, led by his brother-in-law Anwar Usman, ruled in favor a petition calling for exceptions to the 40-year age minimum for presidential and vice presidential candidates. The ruling allowed Gibran to register as Prabowo’s running mate in the 2024 election.

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