September 26, 2023
JAKARTA – After joining the party only a few days ago, Kaesang Pangarep, the youngest son of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, is now officially the new chairman of the Indonesia Solidarity Party (PSI).
During the party’s national meeting (Kopdarnas) in Central Jakarta on Monday night, the PSI named Kaesang, who at 28 is still a novice in Indonesian politics, as the party’s new chair. In a symbolic handover of the party’s leadership, former chair Giring Ganesha presented a bouquet of roses, the party’s symbol, to Kaesang, cementing his place as party chair until 2028.
“I want my generation to be more involved in public administration. I believe that going into politics is one of the ways for the youth to save our future,” Kaesang said in his speech.
Admitting that his inspiration to join politics was his own father, Kaesang, who was dressed in a checkered shirt similar to those Jokowi wore during his presidential campaigns, said he wanted to continue the “good work” done by the previous generation.
Kaesang was previously presented as a PSI member on Saturday at Jokowi’s private residence in his hometown of Surakarta, Central Java.
Commenting on his decision to join the PSI over the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), of which his father, older brother and brother-in-law are members, Kaesang said that he purposefully joined a “small party” because he wanted to carve out his own legacy
“I was interested in joining the PSI exactly because it is not represented yet in the national legislature. I want to fight with everybody here, so that in 2024, the PSI can become a big party and secure seats in the House of Representatives,” he said.
Having not been affiliated with any party previously, Kaesang had been courted by both the PDI-P and the PSI earlier this year when he announced his intention to run for mayor of Depok, West Java.
Known for his internet savvy, Kaesang started out as a blogger and a YouTube personality before launching several food and beverage businesses, including the hugely popular rice-bowl restaurant Mangkokku, which he opened along with older brother and Surakarta Mayor Gibran Rakabuming Raka.
Several of his businesses, however, have not been as successful. Kaesang admitted earlier this month that he was forced to close and rebrand some of his ailing restaurant chains, leading to speculation that he was ready to fully turn his attention to politics, particularly with next year’s legislative and presidential elections being only months away.
Political analyst Firman Noor of the National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN) said the PSI’s decision to name Kaesang as party chair over more seasoned members within its ranks was a bad example.
“This has set a bad precedent for both the PSI and Indonesian democracy at large,” he said.
“Even before we already had a serious problem when it comes to parties preparing their members to take up leadership positions, despite it being a crucial process in any political party,” he added.
“And now the PSI has been written into history as a party that is willing to sacrifice its [internal member education process] for short-term gains.”
The PSI failed to gain enough votes to send representatives to the House in 2019, the first time it contested the legislative elections. But the politically liberal but economically conservative party has since been gaining traction among young and urban voters on social media. It has positioned itself as a politically liberal party and a staunch loyalist of Jokowi. Many of the president’s volunteers were also present during PSI’s meeting on Monday.
Read also: Jokowi, PDI-P relations hit a new low
Despite being loyal to Jokowi, the PSI has been at odds with the PDI-P since the 2019 elections, going so far as to officially retract its support for the PDI-P’s presidential nominee, Ganjar Pranowo, last month.
Since then, the PSI has yet to announce which candidate it will back in the 2024 presidential election. Speculation, however, has been rife that the PSI is leaning toward the Gerindra Party’s presumptive nominee Prabowo Subianto, who is Ganjar’s biggest potential rival in 2024. This is because PSI members have often been pictured attending Gerindra-held political events, including when the Democratic Party announced its support for Prabowo last week.
With Kaesang at its helm, analyst Firman regards the PSI as a new political vehicle for Jokowi’s family, particularly as relations between the President and PDI-P matron Megawati Soekarnoputri have seemingly hit a new low.
The PSI, Firman went on to say, would still need to prove its worth in the 2024 elections.