September 28, 2023
JAKARTA – Having given his blessing for his youngest son to lead a rival political party just in time for the 2024 general elections, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo looks set on efforts to outmaneuver his political sponsor Megawati Soekarnoputri to secure a legacy of power and influence through his children for when he leaves office next year.
Jokowi’s son Kaesang Pangarep, a 28-year-old political novice, was named on Monday chair of the Indonesian Solidarity Party (PSI), a youth-focused party with which Megawati’s Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) has been at odds since the 2019 elections.
This move has shaken up the political establishment, leading some analysts to suggest that it was the latest in a game of political chess between Jokowi and Megawati, whose relationship has appeared increasingly tenuous.
In his first speech as PSI chairman, days after joining the party and a mere three months after he publicly dismissed the idea of entering politics, Kaesang paid tribute to his father who inspired his decision to become a politician.
He also gave an open invitation for his father’s grassroots followers to join forces with his party.
“I ask for the support of Pak Jokowi’s volunteers and supporters, who are not yet affiliated with any particular party, to make the PSI a home for our joint struggle; a friendly home for young nationalists dreaming of a developed Indonesia,” he said at his unveiling event in South Jakarta.
“They are also true Jokowers who believe that the development of the last five years must be continued and even improved on,”
Kaesang added. Kaesang was previously drummed up by a local PDI-P branch as a potential candidate for the Depok mayoral race in West Java, but the party’s elite insisted that he must first receive a proper political education.
But this was before he became the first member of Jokowi’s family to break away from the tradition of joining the PDI-P, which keen observers took as an indication that Jokowi and party matriarch Megawati were now at odds with each other, as they competed for the role of kingmaker in next year’s simultaneous elections.
The President, his eldest son, Surakarta Mayor Gibran Rakabuming Raka, as well as his son-in-law, Medan Mayor Bobby Nasution, are all card-carrying members of the PDI-P. They have at times been reminded by the PDI-P elite of their station as mere “party officials”.
Political experts have argued that so long as Jokowi has no exclusive command of any major political party when he steps down as president, the fate of his nascent political dynasty will remain uncertain.
As such, Jokowi needs some sort of guarantee that the political careers of his two sons and his son-in-law will continue to be supported, said Agung Baskoro, executive director of the Trias Politika Strategis think tank.
“Other than his policy programs, Jokowi looks determined to ensure the continuity of his Solo dynasty so that it can join the ranks of the influential political elite after he steps down,” Agung told The Jakarta Post recently, referring to another name for Surakarta, the city where Jokowi entered politics.
Tensions between Jokowi and Megawati appeared to escalate in April when the latter named then Central Java governor Ganjar Pranowo the PDI-P’s presidential nominee, reportedly without consulting the incumbent.
Read also: Jokowi-Mega rift shapes coalition building
Insiders said this led Jokowi to rally support for his defense minister, Prabowo Subianto, who is slated to run against Ganjar next year.
Prabowo has repeatedly claimed he is Jokowi’s true successor and is currently the frontrunner in various public opinion polls. He has also named the President’s son Gibran as a potential running mate, a move that could help him gain support among Jokowi’s floating supporter base.
Prabowo’s Gerindra Party is involved in a petition filed with the Constitutional Court that seeks to lower the minimum age limit for presidents and vice presidents from 40 to 35 years in the General Elections Law, which would allow Gibran, who will turn 36 next month, to run.
The attempt to lower the presidential age limit and Kaesang’s takeover of the PSI was still “part of Jokowi’s chess playing” with Megawati, as he sought to play a bigger role in the party after stepping down, said Kennedy Muslim, a researcher at pollster Indikator Politik Indonesia.
The move, Kennedy suggests, aims to send a message to the PDI-P that Jokowi could still play an influential role in the future even after he is no longer president.
“Whether it could work or not will depend entirely on whether Megawati is eventually willing to compromise and negotiate with Jokowi over the future road map of Jokowi and his political dynasty,” Kennedy told the Post on Tuesday.