July 18, 2024

Non-Neutrality of Top Officials in Elections

2023 will be a year that illustrates the worsening neutrality of state officials in the context of elections. President Joko Widodo’s term “cawe-cawe” should mean the responsibility of state administrators to ensure that elections are free and fair. What happened instead was that the president intervened to ensure the independence of various state institutions. Through his enormous authority, the president puts forward his personal obsessions, including ignoring constitutional authority and terms of office.

The most sudden thing was when President Joko Widodo intervened in the Constitutional Court. Decision 90/2023 is a condition for obtaining a legal basis equal to the law in the nomination of the president’s eldest son, Gibran Rakabuming Raka. The Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court and the president’s in-law, Anwar Usman, added new legal norms through decisions, resulting in forms of abuse and exceeding authority. For the sake of the president’s son, the MK, as an independent branch of judicial power, has instead taken over the authority of the DPR and the government as policymakers.

Previously, President Joko Widodo, on the axis of executive power, conditioned his hierarchy of power. First, through changing acting regional heads in provincial and district/city governments. Second, through extending the term of office of village heads as well as a number of coordination meetings between the President and all village heads to secure the mass base.

In general, the non-neutrality of state officials in elections has three general forms. First, mobilize ASN. Second, misuse of state facilities. Third, misappropriation of the state budget. We can expect three forms of non-neutrality from state officials to occur through voting events and the distribution of social assistance.

Referring to the 2019 election. The percentage of voting rights users is 81.97% (kpu.go.id). This very high figure is thought to be partly the result of voter mobilization. In this fifth national election, there is an incumbent who is running again for the presidential election.

We can compare it with the percentage of voting rights users in the 2014 presidential election. The figure was only 69.58%, the lowest in the history of national elections (kpu.go.id). In this context, there is no incumbent to nominate.

Then in the 2020 regional elections, the average percentage of voting rights users in 270 regions was 76.5%, or 80.9% in regions where the incumbent was a candidate (kpu.go.id). This high percentage of voting rights users is partly thought to be the result of voter mobilization. The first basis for suspicion is that the voting took place in December 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic was in a very high and massive infection phase. Second, various survey institutions present data showing that more than 50% of citizens do not want to exercise their right to vote in the 2020 regional elections because they are infected with COVID-19.

Non-neutrality of state officials in elections in the form of misuse of authority and state budget can occur because, basically, Indonesia is still a corrupt country. Many indices on state integrity show that corrupt state administrators are a fundamental problem in the archipelago.

Transparency International describes Indonesia as very corrupt in two of its periodic publications. In the 2022 Corruption Perception Index (CPI), Indonesia received a score of 34 (on a scale of 100). Then, the results of interviews with citizens based on their experience of receiving state services in the Global Corruption Barometer (GCB) Asia 2020 placed Indonesia in the top three in Asia for the worst cases of corruption, nepotism, and extortion/sexual harassment in state services.

The Heritage Foundation also concluded that Indonesia is a bad country in terms of economic freedom because of the problem of corruption. In 2023, the government integrity aspect will be worth 39.3. Meanwhile, the value of the judicial effectiveness aspect is 44.2. In fact, the property rights aspect of 38.5 is a sign that the corrupt laws in Indonesia are not strong enough to guarantee the ownership rights of its citizens. All aspects of the Indonesian rule of law have a red value.

The non-neutrality of state officials in elections becomes increasingly difficult to address because they generally include low-level state civil servants. High-ranking state officials who may be connected to election participants or the success team. Operations to misappropriate state budgets and facilities, as well as concrete mobilization of ASN, were carried out through indirect processes.

This situation has the possibility that enforcing the law on the non-neutrality of state officials in elections will result in more sacrifices for low-level ASN. Many of them misuse authority, budget, facilities, and human resources more because of command compliance and fear of rejection. The threat could be dismissal or transfer of work, criminalization, or even physical or life-threatening.

A coalition of civil society organizations on anti-corruption issues formulated a solution to the non-neutrality of state officials at the ASN level. The solution points are:

1. Maintain and uphold the principle of ASN neutrality in their respective agencies in carrying out public service functions both before and after the 2020 Simultaneous Regional Elections

2. Avoid conflicts of interest, do not carry out practices of intimidation and threats to ASN employees and all elements of society and do not take sides with certain candidate pairs.

3. Use social media wisely and not spread hate speech and fake news.

4. Reject money politics and all kinds of gifts in any form.

Law 5/2014 concerning ASN considers that it is necessary to build a state civil apparatus that has integrity, is professional, neutral, and is free from political interference, is free from practices of corruption, collusion and nepotism, and is capable of providing public services for the community.

Unfortunately, in the context of the 2024 General Election, the non-neutrality of state officials and institutions is becoming more blatant. This time from the pinnacle of Indonesian political power, namely President Joko Widodo. So, collecting sanctions from state officials who are not neutral becomes more difficult. Because, the president is not neutral, involved in nominating and winning elections. []