Indonesia’s political parties await ruling on presidential age limit

The court is currently reviewing three petitions seeking to change the current 40-year-old minimum age limit of presidential and vice-presidential candidates.

Yerica Lai

Yerica Lai

The Jakarta Post


An officer from the General Elections Commission (KPU) introduces five different ballots at the KPU building in Central Jakarta in 2018. PHOTO: THE JAKARTA POST

August 3, 2023

JAKARTA – A forthcoming Constitutional Court ruling on the age limit of presidential and vice presidential candidates could be a game changer in the upcoming presidential race, after several parties floated the suggestion to back Surakarta Mayor Gibran Rakabuming Raka, the eldest son of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, as a potential vice presidential candidate.

The court will soon decide whether to lower the age limit of presidential and vice presidential candidates from 40 to 35 years old in the Election Law, raising the possibility of a reconfiguration of the current electoral alliances.

The court is currently reviewing three petitions seeking to change the current 40-year-old minimum age limit of presidential and vice presidential candidates. The move, if granted, will broaden the field of the presidential race, with younger candidates having their chance to join the race should they get the political backing.

The three petitions, the hearings of which started two months ago, were lodged by the Indonesian Solidarity Party (PSI), the Garuda Party and Bukittinggi Mayor Erman Safar together with South Lampung Pandu Deputy Regent Kesuma Dewangsa.

The petition filed by the PSI sought to change the minimum age requirement for presidential and vice presidential candidates to 35 years, while another filed by the Garuda Party maintained the minimum age requirement of 40 years while adding the requirement of being “experienced as a regional head/deputy regional head.”

Whether or not the ruling will be issued before the registration for candidate pairs opens in October depends on the nine-member bench and how fast plaintiffs, or anyone filing a third-party application, should there be any, present their arguments and expert witnesses in court. The court has no deadline for deciding a judicial review case, but the average time it has taken to handle recent cases has been around 2.5 months.

Paving way for Gibran

The ruling is expected to change the current alliance map as several parties have been eyeing 35-year-old Gibran as a potential vice presidential candidate.

The prospect of backing Gibran as a potential running mate has gained traction within the Golkar Party, with the party’s election campaign committee head Nusron Wahid proposing the party name Gibran as vice presidential candidate, describing the pairing of presidential frontrunner Prabowo Subianto and Gibran as “ideal”.

“I propose that Mas Gibran be nominated as a presidential or vice presidential candidate, because Mas Gibran is a young figure who has good political prospects and is well-liked by the millennial generation,” Nusron told reporters on Wednesday.

Nusron, however, stressed that the final decision rested in the hands of party chairman Airlangga Hartarto.

The suggestion came after all of Golkar’s provincial chapters reiterated their support for Airlangga against recent proposals to oust him from the top post at a closed-door meeting in Bali over the weekend, during which the majority of attendees urged Airlangga to have the party backing Prabowo’s presidential bid.

The PSI, which has claimed itself as a staunch supporter of President Jokowi, has dismissed the suggestion that the petition was lodged to specifically have Gibran join the race, arguing instead that the younger generation, including Gibran and East Java Deputy Governor Emil Dardak, should be given a chance to run for the country’s top posts as they have proved their competence as regional leaders.

The youth-focused political party hosted Prabowo on Wednesday evening, during which they discussed the possibility of forging cooperation for the upcoming presidential race, despite the PSI initially declaring it would back Ganjar.

The Gerindra Party has repeatedly dismissed speculation that Prabowo has weighed on tapping Gibran as his running mate, but hinted that the idea could be a possibility if the legal hurdle of the 40-year-old age threshold for presidential and vice presidential candidates to run in the election was cleared.

“We first need to see the outcome of the judicial review,” Gerindra’s executive chairman Sufmi Dasco Ahmad said in May, stressing, however, that it would need to be discussed jointly by members of the Gerindra-led alliance.

Game changer

The court’s ruling on the age limit of candidates has been among factors anticipated in political circles, National Awakening Party (PKB) deputy chairman Jazilul Fawaid said on Tuesday the prospect of younger candidates entering the race could change the current configuration of electoral alliances.

This applied to the Gerindra-led Great Indonesia Awakening Coalition (KKIR), of which the PKB is Gerindra’s sole partner, where the decision over who should run as Prabowo’s running mate has remained undecided almost a year after the alliance was formed, Jazilul added.

“Gerindra seems to be waiting for, among other factors, the court ruling on the candidacy age limit before deciding on Prabowo’s running mate, because there would be a possibility figures like Gibran could make it onto the list,” Djayadi Hanan, executive director of Lembaga Survei Indonesia (LSI), said.

The fate of the alliance would eventually hinge on, among other things, the Jokowi factor, Djayadi said, highlighting that “the PKB forged cooperation with Gerindra only after Gerindra joined Jokowi’s governing coalition.”

With the persisting uncertainty over Muhaimin’s chance of becoming vice presidential candidate, the PKB has opened the possibility of leaving the Gerindra-led alliance, as expressed by Jazilul in a pantun: Lu sebelas; aku dua belas/Lu nggak jelas; gue lepas,”// (You are 11; I am 12/[if] You are [being] vague; then I am free [to go]).

The Muslim-based party has appeared to keep its options open, with Muhaimin hosting PDI-P executive Puan Maharani at his private residence in South Jakarta last week, during which they discussed a possible partnership in the 2024 race. (ahw)

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