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Indonesia: Campaign Ads Banned Outside Set Election Period

(Mar. 6, 2014) Indonesia’s Election Supervisory Committee (Badan Pengawas Pemilihan Umum, often called Bawaslu), the General Elections Commission, and the Central Information Commission, together with the Indonesian Broadcasting Commission, have jointly announced a ban on advertisements run by political parties before the upcoming election season. The ban applies to both electronic and print media and is in force until the beginning of the official campaign period, which starts on March 16 this year. (Hans Nicholas Jong & Yuliasri Perdani, Parties Banned from Running Campaign Ads, THE JAKARTA POST (Feb. 27, 2014).)

Indonesia’s Law on Legislative Elections specifies that there is to be a set period, usually 21 days, for campaigning, followed by a “cooling off” period of several days before the election. (Law of the Republic of Indonesia on Legislative Elections (Aug. 15, 2012), Law No. 8, 2012 [unofficial translation], arts. 4, 82 & 83, ASIAN NETWORK FOR FREE ELECTIONS.) Under this Law, the Bawaslu is “the body that supervises the implementation of the election throughout the Unified State of the Republic of Indonesia.” (Id. art. 1 ¶ 17.)

The decision to forbid political party advertising came following a request from a House of Representatives commission, although the Bawaslu Chairman stated that preparations for the ban had been underway even before the request. He added that the election bodies will enforce the ban by working to remind political parties of the rule and that the Broadcasting Commission will monitor media outlets. (Jong & Perdani, supra.)

One political party, the Hanura Party, while agreeing to respect the ban, called on the government bodies involved to clearly define what constitutes political advertisement. According to Didi Apriadi, the Deputy Secretary-General of that party, Hanura has been trying to fill a gap in public knowledge by educating the public on the election process. He stated that “we are actually broadcasting public service announcements. So we don’t know why the KPI [Indonesian Broadcasting Commission] has issues with our ads.” (Id.) The Bawaslu explained that if a political party pays for an advertisement, that ad is considered to be a campaign message and is not permitted other than during the official campaign period. (Id.)

The Bawaslu has already filed a number of complaints with the police about improper campaigning. On February 26, however, the National Police announced that six of the cases of alleged election violations, which had involved prominent politicians and businessmen, had been dismissed due to administrative errors. Inspector General Ronny F. Sompie of the police noted that “[t]he Bawaslu failed to immediately report some of the violations and missed the deadline. And in other investigations they could not provide sufficient evidence.” (Id.)