November 22, 2023
JAKARTA – Supporters of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo have sought to tamp down reports about the behind-the-scenes role First Lady Iriana has played in grooming and positioning their eldest son Gibran Rakabuming Raka for high office.
Members of Indonesia Onward Coalition electoral alliance backing frontrunner Prabowo Subianto and running mate Surakarta Mayor Gibran have played down a report by Tempo magazine about Iriana’s role in pushing for Gibran’s vice presidential bid, dismissing it merely as the natural and reasonable support of a mother for her son.
“She’s his mother. Seeing her son running [in the presidential race], as a mother, she will definitely support him, pray for him, give her blessing,” Nusron Wahid, a senior member of the Golkar Party and secretary of the Prabowo-Gibran campaign team, told reporters on Tuesday.
Prabowo’s own party Gerindra described any insinuation that Iriana had intervened in the upcoming election as “malicious framing”.
“I don’t understand, how has it come to this? To the point that a mother-son relationship is framed as an evil thing,” asked Habiburokhman, deputy chairman of Gerindra.
The report published by Tempo over the weekend laid out Iriana’s outsize role in Gibran’s ascendancy to the vice presidential candidacy, from consolidating extended First Family members to lobbying local businessmen in Surakarta and Jokowi’s supporter groups to back his son’s vice presidential bid.
It all began earlier this year after Iriana’s disappointment and resentment at how the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) had mistreated Jokowi peaked when chairwoman Megawati Sukarnoputri publicly reminded the President that he would have been nobody without the party, the report claimed.
A day after Megawati announced Ganjar Pranowo as the PDI-P’s presidential candidate in April, Iriana briefed family members that Gibran might enter the race as running mate to the PDI-P’s rival, Prabowo, even though the law at the time still barred Gibran from running given his young age.
The First Lady, according to the report, lobbied members of her own extended family and those of the President’s into agreeing to back Gibran’s bid. She then established communication channels between the two families and a team, which later helped prepare Gibran’s candidacy, including coordinating his supporter groups.
The report cited unnamed sources from the inner circle of Jokowi and Iriana’s extended family members, who claimed that not all of the family members were keen on the notion of Gibran taking a shortcut to pursue high office, preferring him instead to move up the political ladder one step at a time.
Iriana allegedly also lobbied local entrepreneurs who were old colleagues of the President when he was still a furniture businessman in Surakarta, and senior members of the Indonesian Young Entrepreneurs Association (HIPMI) in the city. Most members of HIMPI Surakarta chapter are now backing the Prabowo-Gibran pair in next year’s election.
Iriana’s push for Gibran began before the Constitutional Court cleared the way for her son to run in the race.
Critics say the game-changing ruling was an orchestrated maneuver to allow the First Family to build their own political dynasty before Jokowi’s second and final term ends next year. Then chief justice Anwar Usman, Jokowi’s brother-in-law, was found guilty of an ethics violation for not recusing himself from ruling in the case.
Gibran has played down reports about his mother’s active role behind his vice presidential candidacy, asking for the public and media to treat such claims with skepticism.
“The report about my mother, I suppose, is just gossip, there’s no need to exaggerate it,” Gibran told reporters at Surakarta City Hall on Monday, as quoted by Tempo.co.