October 11, 2023
JAKARTA – President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo is facing public scrutiny over his apparent attempts to build a political dynasty ahead of a Constitutional Court ruling that will decide whether his eldest son can run for vice president next year.
The court is set to announce on Monday of next week its decision on whether to lower the minimum age for presidential and vice presidential candidates from 40 to 35, just nine days before the registration deadline for presidential and vice presidential candidates.
The justices have finished reviewing three petitions that seek to change the requirements for presidential and vice presidential candidates. The petitions were lodged by the Indonesian Solidarity Party (PSI), the Garuda Party and Bukittinggi Mayor Erman Safar along with Deputy South Lampung Regent Pandu Kesuma Dewangsa.
The PSI’s petition seeks to change the minimum age to 35 years. The one filed by the Garuda Party seeks to maintain the current minimum age of 40 and add the requirement of being “experienced as a regional head/deputy regional head”.
A ruling in favor of the petitioners would clear the way for Jokowi’s eldest son, Gibran Rakabumi Raka, the 36-year-old mayor of Surakarta who has recently been mentioned as a potential vice-presidential candidate, to run in the upcoming race.
Gibran has acknowledged having received several offers from Prabowo Subianto to serve as his running mate but has declined to reveal whether he would enter the race if the court decided to clear the way by lowering the minimum age for the vice presidency.
Gibran’s potential vice presidential candidacy has been gaining traction among both his and his father’s supporter groups, such as “Relawan Jokowi-Gibran” and “Samawi”, which have both pledged their support for the Surakarta mayor to run with Prabowo next year.
As the first Indonesian president in the post-Reform era to come from outside the political and military elite, Jokowi’s ascension to the presidency eight years ago, propelled by popular frustrations with the corrupt and nepotistic political establishment, was heralded as a milestone.
After just a single term, however, Jokowi joined the ranks of Indonesia’s other two living presidents, Megawati Sukarnoputri and Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, in becoming the head of a political dynasty, as his own burgeoning family dynasty began taking shape.
In 2021, Gibran was elected mayor of Surakarta, the city where Jokowi started his political career, without much opposition, while Bobby Nasution, who is married to the president’s 32-year-old daughter Kahiyang Ayu, was elected mayor of Medan in the same year.
The President, who is set to leave office next year, has now been accused of engineering the future of his political dynasty through his sons, Gibran and his youngest son Kaesang Pangarep, who was recently appointed chief of the PSI, a move that was seen as consolidating the President’s supporters into one platform.
Academics and watchdog groups have said that granting the petitions to lower the minimum age of presidential and vice presidential candidates would tarnish the integrity of the Constitutional Court and weaken the country’s democracy, a criticism that has increasingly regularly been levied at Jokowi’s presidency.
“The petitions are no longer aimed at upholding the constitutional rights of citizens but are strongly suspected to be based on the lust for power of Jokowi’s family and devotees, who want to nominate Gibran, who is not yet 40 years old, as a vice presidential candidate,” said Hendardi, chairman of the Setara Institute.
The group called on the court to refrain from changing the minimum age to run for the country’s top two public offices, insisting it remained an open legal policy that should not be reviewed at the Constitutional Court.
Deciding otherwise would amount to the court siding with Jokowi’s political dynasty, Hendardi contended, adding that efforts to have the court clear the way for Gibran’s candidacy had been among “the ugliest political operations” ever carried out by an Indonesian president.
“All elements of society must remind the Constitutional Court not to become an instrument of legalizing a candidacy that supports the Jokowi dynasty,” Hendardi added.