February 23, 2024

Deliberative Campaign in Educational Institutions

Campaigning is an integral part of elections. However, not all public space can be taken as campaign sites, which include educational institutions. However, recently, political campaigns at educational institutions have been permitted. Historically, in Indonesia, the ban on campaigning in educational settings was implemented in the 2004, 2009, and 2014 elections, and most recently in the 2019 Election through Law Number 7 of 2017 on General Elections. Subsequently, a judicial review of the law was filed by a petitioner to the Constitutional Court who saw the inappropriateness of the ban.

The Constitutional Court granted the petition and issued a decision. After the Constitutional Court decision was issued, Article 280, paragraph (1), letter H of Law 7/2017 was revised. It states that election campaign organizers, participants, and teams are prohibited from using government facilities, places of worship, and educational sites. However, there is an exception for government facilities and educational institutions. Campaigns in these two sites are permitted given that permissions are granted by those who are in charge of the place in question and present without election campaign attributes.

What is meant by educational sites’ is the building and/or grounds of a school or college. This decision has been responded to in various ways. Although, in the context of government facilities, it is very vulnerable to bureaucratic politization. However, campaigns in educational settings are very interesting to implement seriously because this is an effective discussion space to test the capacity and capabilities of candidates, although there are many parties that worry about the politicization and capitalization of educational institutions.

Apart from the debate, from the perspective of the public sphere and political communication, the Constitutional Court decision can be seen as fresh air for the future improvement of democracy. It is said so, as from election to election, political communication between the people as voters and their potential leaders has only been one-way communication. The debates held by the General Election Commission were unable to further elaborate on the candidates’ vision and mission. In fact, in the 2019 Election, candidates were given grids before the debate began. So, political communication in strategic areas such as elections is often top-down and monologic (Geraldy, 2023). The space for public participation tends to be artificial (pseudo-public) and closed.

The public’s acquaintance with the quality of candidates is more on the level of gimmicks and symbols through media representation, i.e., television broadcasts. Policies and program agendas lack transparency and accountability, and they do not meet people’s needs. The public is only exposed to elitist and oligarchic discourse through media framing agendas. As reminded by Budiman Tanuredjo and Sukidi’s interview in Kompas, Indonesia needs authentic leaders, not imagery-based ones. University and Hope for Change Just to build a comparative case, in the United States, campaigning on campus is not taboo. Based on VoA Indonesia’s monitoring results, for decades, presidential candidate debates have taken place on campus, including the seven Democratic candidates’ debates in New Hampshire. In addition to providing complete campus facilities, debates on campus are also expected to provide opportunities for students to engage in national political discourse. University is a hope in the midst of the stagnation and decline of democracy worldwide. As the State of Global Democracy (2022) reported, democracy has been at its lowest point since 2006, including Indonesia’s democracy, which is not too convincing. In such settings, the university becomes a very strategic academic space, and public discourse can be used to create high-quality political campaigns.

Universities also have a big responsibility to produce prophetic leaders who are able to answer the nation’s problems in the future. By looking at the current condition of the nation, it can be said that political elites often disregard people’s aspirations. In fact, democracy is built on the sovereignty of the people, on the one hand, and on the credo of vox populi vox dei (the voice of the people is the voice of God), on the other. This intrinsically means that when people’s voices are valued highly, they are actually connected to the divine mission. In this element lies the sacred value of democracy, which must not be ignored or misused (Nashir, 2020). Furthermore, the university stage should be a gathering place for organic intellectuals who are able to present ideas for a better Indonesia and be able to bring about change. A university becomes an academic space where theory and reality are synthesized. A democratic dialectic can be realized when the basis of a community can create a space for equality and justice. In Karl Max’s thinking, intellectual groups, including those at universities, can enter the circle of power.

They are in the structure of capitalist society, which is directly adjacent to the rulers and owners of capital, and play active roles in shaping social collective consciousness, even exercising social control when conflicts occur. Referring to the post-modernism theorist Michel Foucault (1980), it is revealed that politics and power can never be separated from knowledge, or vice versa. In other words, knowledge produces power. Through power and knowledge, Foucault attempts to show the relationship between power and knowledge. The power of knowledge is called the discourse regime by Foucault. Through the discourse regime, power is diffuse, ubiquitous, and immanent in every social relationship. Public needs become instruments of power to produce discourse and political policies. The discourse needs to be tested in the academic space.

Deliberative and dialogical campaign methods are very effective compared to conventional methods such as the installation of campaign props, advertisements in the mass media, open campaigns, face-to-face meetings, limited meetings, and monologue campaign debates. Jurgen Habermas calls this the public sphere. The inequality of information communication that occurs in every election event can be bridged by open communication.

It is the public space that becomes a discourse and creates equality with rational, critical, and inclusive arguments (Habermas, 2007). In communicative rationality, Habermas emphasizes the importance of honesty, accuracy, and truth as prerequisites for democracy with integrity. As examples, the innovation made by the University of Indonesia and Gajah Mada University by inviting all candidates to directly engage in dialectics with each other is sufficient to illustrate that there is a shared consensus in an equal public space.

Strong Regulatory Rules

Furthermore, campaigns in educational institutions have a high potential for alleged election violations. This needs to be anticipated. The KPU must make clear and rigid technical rules related to campaigns in educational institutions, including the application and granting of permits, so it will not create confusion for election participants and universities. In America, to prevent things that are not in accordance with the laws and regulations, the American Council on Education (ACE) issued a guide to Political Campaign-Related Activities of and at Colleges and Universities, which contains things that can and cannot be held related to campaigns in educational institutions.

Consequently, KPU Regulation 15/2023 on Campaigns needs to be revised in detail, especially campaigns in educational institutions and government facilities. KPU should also be able to guarantee equality and fairness between one candidate and another, so that nobody feels discriminated against. The basic question now is: What kinds of campaign methods are suitable for educational institutions, considering that there are so many campaign methods used in elections and not all methods are appropriate for educational institution contexts?

Lastly, on-campus campaigns are basically another form of political education. Because political education is not just concepts and theories taught in the classroom, Through the momentum of the 2024 Elections, campaigns and public debates of candidates are no longer a vacuum, but it is a space to realize that elections are not just a mere five-year ceremonial routine but also present substantive democracy, so it is able to present the public with real participation and not just pseudo-participation.

NENI NUR HAYATI Director of Democracy and Electoral Empowerment Partnership (DEEP) Indonesia, Vice Secretary of the Institute for Politics and Public Policy, Central Board of Muhammadiyah