Jokowi’s die-hard supporters keep seeking ways to keep him in office beyond 2024

Jokowi will end his second five-year term in October 2024 and is barred under the Constitution from seeking a third term.

Yerica Lai

Yerica Lai

The Jakarta Post


A printing company employee checks the color quality of ballot papers for the 2019 presidential election in Jakarta in this undated photo.(The Jakarta Post/Dhoni Setiawan )

September 29, 2022

JAKARTA – President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has less than two years before he steps down but his die-hard supporters have been tinkering with ways to keep him in power beyond 2024.

A group calling itself the Prabowo-Jokowi joint secretariat filed a petition last week with the Constitutional Court to review the General Elections Law to pave the way for Jokowi to run for the country’s second-highest post.

Jokowi will end his second five-year term in October 2024 and is barred under the Constitution from seeking a third term. The Constitution, however, has no stipulation on whether an incumbent president can run for a term as vice president.

The group is challenging Article 169 of the General Elections Law that stipulates presidential and vice presidential candidates must not have “served as president or vice president for two terms in the same office”.

The petitioners say they need legal certainty on whether a president who has served two terms can run for vice president. The petition came after the Constitutional Court spokesman made a remark earlier this month that a president, who has served for two terms, may run for vice president, prompting discussion among political elites about the possibility. The Court then issued a clarification days after stressing that the spokesman’s remark was “not an official statement” and did not represent the court.

Some senior politicians from the pro-government coalition have said that Jokowi might run for vice president after his term expires in 2024 if he gets nominated by political parties.

Bambang Wuryanto of the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), however, said that the decision to nominate Jokowi as vice president would rest in the hands of party chairwoman Megawati Soekarnoputri.

The Gerindra Party has opened the possibility of pairing its chairman and preferred presidential nominee Prabowo with Jokowi but said that the decision on who would be Prabowo’s running mate was Prabowo’s to make. Asked about whether it would be possible to have Jokowi running on Prabowo’s ticket, Prabowo said recently, with a chuckle: “It’s a possibility”.

Defense Minister Prabowo, Jokowi’s erstwhile rival in the 2014 and 2019 presidential races, is reportedly among several presidential hopefuls that Jokowi has considered endorsing.

Jimly Asshiddique, a former Constitutional Court chief justice, argued that a president could only serve two five-year terms. “After that, he is no longer allowed, including being vice-president,” he said.

Jokowi has denied that he came up with the suggestion. “Who is this from?” he asked reporters. “I will explain if the [suggestion] comes from me. If it’s not from me, I don’t want to speak about it.”

The possibility of Jokowi running as vice president is actually real, said political researcher Wasisto Raharjo of the National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN), particularly because “there are still many national agendas that have not been completed in his second term, due to the pandemic”.

“But it is not very ethical to do so. Pushing Jokowi to become a vice presidential candidate will actually taint his image as being power hungry,” Wasisto said.

Earlier this year, the nation was taken aback after senior politicians from three pro-government parties — allegedly at the behest of Jokowi’s inner circle — made a controversial proposal to delay the 2024 general elections and extend his term, citing the need for post-pandemic economic recovery and higher election costs.

Some of Jokowi’s grassroots supporters even called for the Constitution to be amended to allow presidents to stay in office for three consecutive terms instead of two, paving the way for him to run again in 2024.

Back in April, Jokowi told his aides to stop talking about an extension of his term or the postponement of the 2024 general election, asking them instead to focus on handling the rising threat of inflation.

The General Elections Commission (KPU) announcement on the election date and the ongoing preparations for the forthcoming election appeared to have quashed these proposals. But the discourse resurfaced in August when Projo, one of Jokowi’s largest supporter groups, refloated the idea.

Political analyst Arif Suanto of Exposit Strategic said that part of the reason why Jokowi had such militant supporters was because he had such a “strong political magnetism”.

“We have not seen any political figure who could be the antithesis of Jokowi today,” Arif said. “Moreover, Jokowi has maintained his connection with voters. This is something that stands in stark contrast to what [his predecessor] Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono did.”

Credible polls have repeatedly found that the majority of respondents believe the presidential election should be held according to regular practice once every five years without being postponed for any reason.

The Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), for example, found in its most recent public opinion poll, which targeted young voters, that 86.2 percent of the respondents wanted the two-term limit for the President to be maintained. About 97 percent of respondents, meanwhile, were of the opinion that direct election continued to be the best way to choose the president and vice president.

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