Govt: Public Officials’ Participation in Election Campaign a Citizens’ Right

A judicial review hearing of the Election Law on public officials’ participation in election campaigns to hear the Government, KPU, and Bawaslu, Tuesday (2/6/2024). Photo by MKRI/Ifa.

JAKARTA (MKRI) — The involvement of the president, vice president, ministers, and heads of regions in elections should be considered a manifestation of the citizens’ voting right as regulated in Article 43 paragraph (1) of Law No. 39 of 1999 on Human Rights, where all citizens have the right to be elected and to vote in the election.

The statement was made by interim Director-General for Politics and Public Administration of the Ministry of Home Affairs Togap Simangunsong on behalf of the Government at a material judicial review hearing of Law No. 7 of 2017 on General Elections (Election Law) for case No. 166/PUU-XXI/2023, filed by Gugum Ridho Putra, on Tuesday, February 6, 2024 in the Constitutional Court’s plenary courtroom.

He compared this with the practices in several democracies. In the US in the 2016 election, President Obama campaigned for the Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton. In 2017, the President of France Francois Hollande also campaigned for then-candidate Emmanuel Macron. In other words, election campaign is the manifestation of the universal right to vote in election, as stipulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). In short, every citizen has the right to take part in their country’s administration directly or through representatives that they vote for freely.

Campaign and the Use of AI

Next, Simangunsong delivered the Government/President’s testimony on the Petitioner’s claim of the absence of restriction on election participants relating to the use of personal images in the form of photos/images, sounds, combined photos/images and sounds with digital manipulation, creation, alteration, digital removal or artificial intelligence (AI) technology that are considered as if they were authentic personal images.

Digital democracy, the Government asserted, has created new challenges to democratic practices since they could transcend time and spatial limitations. The use of AI in campaign for election candidates is actually effective and efficient. In fact, Simangunsong continued, regulating the use of AI in election campaigns can inhibit technological innovation and limit the candidates’ ability to utilize cutting-edge tools and techniques in interacting with voters.

Not to mention, regulating the use of AI in election campaigns risks violating freedom of speech and expression and can also undermine the democratic principles underlying the electoral process.

“Based on the legal principle nullum delictum nulla poena sine praevua lege poenali, as long as the use of AI in election campaigns is not prohibited, it is allowed and does not violate any norms,” he stressed.

Campaign Rules and Bans

Meanwhile, head of the legal and supervision division of the General Elections Commission (KPU) Mochammad Afifuddin said in his testimony that campaign rules and bans are laid out in the Election Law and the KPU regulations. Basically, in a campaign, election participants try to convince voters by offering visions and programs and project a certain personal image. Thus, the rules for organizing elections are part of public political education that is carried out with full responsibility. Thus, campaign methods can be carried out in various ways including advertisements in print and electronic media, public meetings, candidate debates, and other activities that do not violate statutory legislation.

Article 280 paragraph (2) of the Election Law stipulates that a campaign organizer and/or campaign team is prohibited from involving the judiciary, public officials, state- or region-owned enterprises, civil servants, the police force, the national military, and citizens who do not have the right to vote. Such a restriction can be imposed while taking into account the implementation of the duties of state and regional administration. In addition, in holding campaigns, those officials are prohibited from using state facilities, except in remote areas while taking into account the principle of fairness.

“As such, election campaign by president/vice president and public officials is regulated in the provisions on resignation, permit, and leave for election campaign,” Afifuddin explained.

Leave and Permit to Campaign

Meanwhile, in his testimony, Bawaslu (Elections Supervisory Body) chairman Rahmat Bagja said that Bawaslu refers to Articles 62, 62A, 63, and 64 on the KPU Regulation No. 15 of 2023 on campaigns for general elections, which clearly regulates leave for public officials who participate in election campaigns. He added that the Government Regulation No. 53 of 2023 also regulates the procedure for public officials’ resignation and permission to participate in election campaign.

“Based on data on the handling of election violations at the campaign stage in the 2024 election, until February 6, 2024 there were no findings and/or reports of structured, systematic, and massive election administration violations. Likewise, there are no allegations of election campaign violations related to personal image that uses AI,” Bagja explained.

Also read:

Public officials’ Campaigns Show Potential Conflict of Interest

Advocate Revise Petition on Election Contestants’ Personal Images

At the preliminary hearing on Thursday, December 21, 2023, the Petitioner argued there is a legal vacuum in the provisions on campaign for the upcoming 2024 election amid potential for conflicts, TSM (structured, systematic, and massive) violations, and non-restriction of personal image. He stated that the president, vice president, minister, governor, vice governors, regents, and vice regents, mayors, and deputy mayors should be ban from campaigning for their family members who run for election. This is regulated in Article 22E paragraph (1) of the 1945 Constitution, which requires elections to be held freely, honestly, and fairly.

Allowing them to campaign for family members who run for election, he argued, contradicts the principle of free, honest, and fair elections. The physical presence of these officials would send a strong non-verbal order to the public, indirectly urging the entire community to participate in the election and support their family members involved in the election.

The Petitioner also questions the absence of prohibition for election participants on using personal images in the form of photos/images, sounds, combined photos/images and sounds with digital manipulation, creation, alteration, digital removal or artificial intelligence (AI) technology are considered as if they were authentic personal images. Through technological advances, election participants can exaggerate their image beyond the actual situation. The absence prohibition on such a thing can cause misinformation among voters, potentially manipulating voters’ perceptions of candidates, leading voters to use their voting rights in a misguided voting. He explained that the Election Law has not regulated personal image of election participants that will be used in campaign materials. Restrictions on the use of digital technology, including AI, have also not been regulated. As a result, election participants can freely polish their images without restrictions.

Author       : Sri Pujianti
Editor        : Lulu Anjarsari P.
PR            : Raisa Ayuditha
Translator  : Yuniar Widiastuti (NL)

Disclaimer: The original version of the news is in Indonesian. In case of any differences between the English and the Indonesian versions, the Indonesian version will prevail.

Tuesday, February 06, 2024 | 15:52 WIB 53
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