President’s Right to Campaign Revisited

Chief Justice Suhartoyo (center) chairing the preliminary hearing of the judicial review of the Election Law, Monday (7/8/2024). Photo by MKRI/Panji.

JAKARTA (MKRI) — Four petitioners have filed a material judicial review petition of Law No. 7 of 2017 on General Elections (Election Law) to the Constitutional Court (MK). In the petition for case No. 55/PUU-XXII/2024, they question the provisions on the president and vice president’s right to conduct election campaign as stipulated in Article 281 paragraph (1) and Article 299 paragraph (1) of the Election Law.

Article 281 paragraph (1) reads, “An electoral campaign involving a President, Vice President….” Article 299 paragraph (1) reads, “A president or a vice president shall have the right to campaign.”

La Ode Nofal, Arimansa Eko Putra, La Ode Arukun, and Risard Nur Fiqral (Petitioners I-IV) believe the articles are in violation of Article 28D paragraph (1) of the 1945 Constitution, which guarantees the constitutional right to fair legal protection and equality before the law. The provisions on those two articles could potentially lead to the incumbent president and vice president’s partiality for certain election contestants.

“The provisions of Article 281 paragraph (1) and Article 299 paragraph (1) of the Election Law provides a basis for the president/vice president to be involved in the so-called national succession of [election] campaign so the a quo provisions may provide a way for the president/vice president to support or show partiality for certain presidential/vice presidential candidate contesting in the presidential election,” Nofal said before the panel of justices in the plenary courtroom on Monday, July 8, 2024.

The Petitioners believe that the president/vice president must uphold justice and equality for all by staying impartial. If the provisions of said articles stay, it would be utilized by the president/vice president to support certain candidate pairs, which is against the guarantee of fair legal protection and equality before the law.

They assert that the incumbent’s right to campaign should only be limited to themselves, as the Constitution has granted incumbent president/vice president to take office twice.

As such, the Petitioners assert, the provisions allow a one-term president/vice president to seek reelection and to campaign for it. However, when no longer in office, it is unethical for them to campaign or show support for certain presidential tickets, which clearly violates the guarantee of constitutional rights.

In the petitum, the Petitioners request that the Court declare said phrase in Article 281 paragraph (1) of the Election Law unconstitutional and not legally binding if not interpreted as “shall apply only for incumbent President/Vice President and for the campaign to seek reelection for themselves.”

Justices’ Advice

Constitutional Justice Arief Hidayat advised the Petitioners to add comparison with other countries. “So it will enlighten [us] of the practice in other countries,” he said.

He also revealed that he had expressed a similar stance on the issue. He advised the Petitioners to observe the dissenting opinions in the 2024 presidential election results dispute handed down in April.

“Indonesia not only applies the rule of law but also the rule of ethics. Behind the rule of law, the rule of ethics must apply. This means that it is unethical for a head of state or president to campaign for a certain candidate,” he explained. 

Author            : Mimi Kartika
Editor            : N. Rosi
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.

Monday, July 08, 2024 | 15:55 WIB 29