A year ahead of the 2024 elections, groups of volunteers began to show up and declare their support for certain figures to be the candidates for Indonesian President in 2024. Many of them have even been very well-prepared by establishing a joint secretariat to support their presidential hopefuls, including ranks of volunteers who are members of Go Anies, Forum Ka’bah Membangun, and Anies Amanat Indonesia.
Before this secretariat was established, the volunteers for Anies Baswedan, the presidential candidate backed by the National Democratic Party (Partai Nasdem), held a series of grand meetings between Anies and the sympathizers. Meanwhile, Last November, volunteers supporting the incumbent Joko Widodo (Jokowi) gathered to fill the Gelora Bung Karno Main Stadium in Jakarta.
These kinds of gathering events were then considered by some people as a “veiled campaign that is not allowed before the official campaign period of the 2024 Elections”. Therefore, they consider it a violation that should be reported to the Election Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu).
However, Bawaslu, an institution that has the authority to process violations related to elections, was unable to do much about this, on the grounds that the election schedule has not been officially declared. In addition, the General Elections Commission (KPU) has not announced the official candidates for the presidency.
Sharing the same view with Bawaslu, KPU maintained that it does not have the authority to prohibit the activities of election volunteers. KPU Chairman Hasyim Asyari stated that the activities of volunteer groups declaring support for a certain figure were a natural thing to do a year before the election.
Jaring.id journalist Reka Kajaksana talked to the chairman of the election commission about election-related activities organized by volunteer groups and how the authorities should handle them. The following is an excerpt from the interview.
The movement of volunteers declaring their presidential candidates has begun to spring up in a number of regions, how do you see this?
It’s simply like a gathering event, maintaining a good relationship, and keeping in touch with friends. Anyone can do that. It’s a good thing. Just like Prophet Muhammad said, there are two pearls of wisdom in maintaining a good relationship with others: extending the life and opening ways for sustenance. Sustenance can be in the form of position or power.
For now, KPU cannot forbid the volunteers to do their [gathering] activities, [because the official nomination agenda has not started]. In a nomination mechanism, usually, there is recruitment in the political party to select which figures are eligible. Then, the party will hold a nomination before they register their candidate to the KPU.
I don’t know whether the presidential hopefuls have registered to the party or not and whether they have been selected or not at the moment, although there are also many people who have claimed themselves as legislative candidates for the House of Representatives, or for the Regional Legislative Council, from a certain political party in a certain electoral district. That’s an internal matter of the party. We can only find out who will be the candidates later in May after the parties officially register with the KPU.
Does it need to be regulated?
The term “volunteer” is actually not recognized in Law Number 7/2017 on Elections. We only use the term “campaign team”, which is a composition of names of the people taking care of the candidates’ campaign activities. This team is officially registered with the KPU.
So, can we say that KPU’s authority is limited and that KPU is unable to take action in handling campaigns before the official schedule of election phases?
KPU’s legal relationship is only with the political party. So, the KPU only sees someone as a candidate if they are registered to the election commission by the political party supporting them. A person is called a candidate if he/she has been included in the permanent candidate list. Right now, the registration season has not even started yet. So, how come the KPU considers the figure proposed by the volunteer as a presidential candidate? No, we don’t consider them the official candidates.
Election participants are political parties. So, in our view, the legal relationship that is built through the House of Representatives and the regional councils involves political parties.
Can it be categorized as another form of a campaign?
How can we call it a campaign? The person they support will not necessarily be truly eligible as an official candidate later. We call the activity as campaigning when there is an invitation to vote for a person.
Isn’t there already an invitation to vote for a particular candidate?
We should understand whether the person being supported is an official candidate or not. Of course not, because the official election schedule has not started. They are only volunteers declaring their support for someone who is not the real candidate.
So, there is nothing to worry about?
There is nothing to worry about. Anyone can hold a gathering with anyone else because currently there is no official candidate yet. And there is no certainty that the persons who have gained volunteers’ support now will be the real candidates later.