A vote is approaching and the Constitutional Court authorizes campus campaigning

by MMC
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INDONESIA

While Indonesians will go to the polls next February to elect a president, the official campaign for the three candidates begins this month. A recent ruling by the Constitutional Court that educational institutions can be used as campaign venues could herald a major shift in campus politics and impact the important youth vote.

The new decision received mixed reactions. Before the August 15 decision, Indonesian universities and schools were considered neutral zones for political campaigns, based on the country’s electoral regulations which stated: “Organizers of general elections, participants and campaign teams to use government facilities, places of worship and places of education. »

Now, the Constitutional Court’s revised campaign regulations allow politicians and official presidential candidates to speak on university campuses provided they first obtain permission from university authorities.

However, campaign leaflets, banners and other “party attributes” remain prohibited in these places, in accordance with the revised regulations.

Explaining the restrictions on campaign materials in his legal considerations, delivered by constitutional judge Enny Nurbaningsih, the court affirmed that the restrictions imposed on election campaigns were based on sound reasons: to maintain integrity, transparency and justice in the political process. Without restrictions, campaigns could potentially lead to the spread of misinformation, slander or manipulation in an attempt to influence voters, he said.

Nurbaningsih added that these restrictions also help maintain equality in elections, so that all candidates have an equal chance of gaining support.

Hasyim Asy’ari, chairman of the General Election Commission, said the political campaign of presidential candidates on university campuses is necessary because scholars, professors and students will have the opportunity to criticize, question and to make suggestions on what the candidates say they are proposing.

“All future leaders should be challenged and questioned to see if their political programs are relevant and realistic,” Asy’ari said.

Campuses are never free from politics

Academics point out that universities and schools have never been free from political intrigue and power politics. Political parties attempt to use universities as a base to expand their influence among professors, scientists and students. Teachers have associations indirectly linked to certain parties, while student organizations are generally affiliated with political parties.

However, previous restrictions on academic and educational establishments were intended to avoid political conflicts and discord between academics and researchers. As a result, some fear the new regulations could lead to divisions between students and faculty, which would not be good for education.

Abdul Mu’ti, a lecturer at Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University in Jakarta and secretary general of Muhammadiyah – a major Islamic organization in Indonesia that also runs many educational institutions – said that even if this was now authorized by the new regulations, he would do so. does not allow presidential campaigns at universities and schools under his administration.

“This will have a negative impact on academic work. And political interest in academic organizations will strengthen,” Mu’ti said.

Professor Nizam Nizam, Director General of Higher Education, Research and Technology at the Ministry of Education, Culture, Research and Technology, reminded universities to remain neutral and distance themselves political activities. He said academic activities cannot be sacrificed for political activities on campus.

(h) Some are in favor

Many Indonesians believe schools are not a suitable place for campaign activities and could cause more disruption after learning disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

But Dr Ramdany, a lecturer at Muhammadiyah University in Jakarta, supports the new regulations for universities.

“Any political project that will affect society should be put to the test and undergo an “intellectual selection” in universities so that people can see what future leaders propose and can decide which candidate they will vote for “, said Ramdany. News from the academic world.

But he added that it would only work “if the campaign is presented as dialogue or discussions, not political discourse.” He stressed that opening universities to political campaigns would make higher education institutions more relevant to the world outside their campuses.

Ramdany also sees the court’s decision as a way to address the younger generation’s growing apathy towards politics. “So far, the younger generation mainly views politics as a power game between politicians, businessmen and groups of people competing for political and economic concessions.

“They think that way because they are not involved in the political process,” he added.

Rocky Gerung, an academic and popular intellectual and political analyst, views the decision as positive. “Political thinking and projects affect the future of the nation, so they must be observed, discussed and analyzed thoroughly. And universities are the appropriate places for this,” he said on CNN Indonesia.

He is not afraid of divisions among students, noting that the students are mature enough. “They will appreciate different choices and opinions. Election campaign platforms on college campuses will allow students to get used to differences, and that is an important part of education,” Gerung said.

Student reaction

The University of Indonesia Student Executive Office (BEM) is excited about the new regulations, saying students will be able to participate in the exchange of ideas and policy plans that shape the country’s future.

On August 8, BEM sent letters of invitation to the three presidential candidates for a round table where they could discuss their political projects.

The presidential debate originally scheduled for September 14 was then canceled, with the only candidate willing to come being Anies Rasyid Baswedan, an academic and former governor of Jakarta.

Ganjar Pranowo, governor of Central Java and candidate of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, was performing Umrah (small pilgrimage), while Prabowo Subianto, who is in his third bid for the presidency, is serving as the country’s defense minister.

“If they had come, we would have torn their heads off,” said Melki Sedek Huang, director of BEM at the University of Indonesia, meaning students could closely examine the candidates’ thoughts.

As candidates begin their campaigns this month, broadcasting their political programs and agendas through the media, public speeches and mass rallies, the general election campaign is expected to officially begin on November 28 and last until February 10, 2024.

The presidential campaign will resume from June 2 to 22, 2024 if a second round of campaigning is necessary. The new president is expected to take office by the end of 2024.

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