June 26, 2023
JAKARTA – Signs are growing that Indonesian President Joko Widodo is leaning towards endorsing Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto for president in the 2024 polls instead of his own party candidate Ganjar Pranowo.
This is because Mr Prabowo, 71, chairman of right-wing populist Gerindra Party, is fully committed to supporting the political careers of Mr Widodo’s family members, according to analysts.
Mr Widodo, popularly known as Jokowi, is unlikely to receive such support from his own ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) since he is considered a mere party official who has never been promised or offered a high position within PDI-P.
The President’s elder son, Mr Gibran Rakabuming Raka, 35, is the mayor of Solo – also known as Surakarta – in Central Java. He has been touted to pursue higher office.
Mr Gibran’s younger brother, Mr Kaesang Pangarep, 28, is gearing up to join the mayoral race in the city of Depok in West Java, and their brother in-law Bobby Nasution, 31, is mayor of Medan in North Sumatra.
Mr Widodo and Mr Prabowo appeared together last Monday at an international football friendly match between Indonesia and Argentina in Jakarta, drawing wide media attention.
The two men sat next to each other, while on Mr Prabowo’s right was Indonesia’s national football association chairman, Mr Erick Thohir.
Earlier in June, Mr Kaesang was spotted wearing a shirt with Mr Prabowo’s face on it during a visit to an Indonesian cultural festival in Ansan, South Korea.
When asked about the shirt in a social media post, he said: “Kaesang is a fan of Pak Prabowo.” This was the second time Mr Kaesang had attracted media interest for wearing such a shirt.
A survey in May by Indonesia’s oldest newspaper Kompas revealed that Mr Widodo’s endorsement could sway voters, with 53 per cent of respondents saying they would consider his choice, and 16 per cent saying they would vote according to his preference.
Political pundits said the political careers of Mr Widodo’s family members would be safer if he sided with Mr Prabowo, rather than with Mr Ganjar, 54, a PDI-P member and current governor of Central Java.
Mr Prabowo and Mr Ganjar are the two most popular and electable candidates for the next presidential election, according to various pollsters.
Political observers also noted that PDI-P is a family-run, rather than professional, party, with Ms Megawati Soekarnoputri as its founder and still the leader, and her son, daughter and other relatives filling strategic posts.
Meanwhile, Mr Prabowo’s only child, a noted fashion designer who has lived mostly overseas, has no political ambitions.
Political analyst Djayadi Hanan, who was a research fellow at Harvard Kennedy School, told The Straits Times: “Prabowo is not only a (presidential) candidate, but also a party chairman.
“It is normal that Jokowi is more comfortable with giving support for Prabowo.”
“Ganjar is a mere party official. If you want commitment – in return for the favour you give – you have to talk to Megawati,” Dr Djayadi added, referring to the PDI-P chairman.
Ms Megawati has called Mr Ganjar “a mere party official” tasked with implementing the party’s programmes and ideology, and assigned to be a presidential candidate.
And she has reserved the same treatment for Mr Widodo.
At an event celebrating PDI-P’s 50th anniversary in January, Ms Megawati said Mr Widodo would have been a pitiful figure had he not received PDI-P’s backing.
ST understands that the Indonesian President was displeased this remark was made publicly.
Still, PDI-P senior politician Panda Nababan told reporters that he was confident Mr Widodo would support Mr Ganjar – the choice made by Ms Megawati – calling Mr Widodo’s closeness with Mr Prabowo “a mere courtesy”.
Political analyst Adi Prayitno argued in a popular YouTube podcast on Friday: “Jokowi is doing a waltz dance with Prabowo. He has shown on various occasions that he is comfortable with Prabowo. We cannot ignore this fact.
“If Jokowi is not well regarded, not considered important by PDI-P regarding (decisions surrounding) the 2024 presidential election, this waltz might continue,” he said, referring to the two men appearing together and enjoying applause from citizens, while Mr Prabowo makes some popularity gains.
When the time comes, Dr Djayadi said Mr Widodo “may not give a blunt signal” of his endorsement for Mr Prabowo, but the public would get the message.