Kaesang, Jokowi’s youngest, hints at running for Depok mayor

Speculation emerged when the Depok branch of the Indonesian Solidarity Party erected a roadside poster, promoting Kaesang as the city’s mayor.

Fikri Harish

Fikri Harish

The Jakarta Post


Kaesang Pangarep, the youngest child of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo.(Kaesang Pangarep's YouTube/File)

June 12, 2023

JAKARTA – After much speculation, Kaesang Pangarep, the youngest child of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, dropped hints of his intention to run as mayor of Depok, West Java on Saturday, potentially expanding the sphere of influence of the President’s political dynasty.

Speculation on his political future emerged when the Depok branch of the Indonesian Solidarity Party (PSI) erected a roadside poster promoting Kaesang as the city’s mayor in May. The billboard bears the image of Kaesang holding a rose with the words “victory for PSI, mayor Kaesang” written above him.

While the billboard was an initiative of PSI, the young culinary entrepreneur confirmed that the party acted on his blessing. “The photos came from me, and PSI gave their support. […] I gave them [what they needed] as I intend to go all-out,” Kaesang told reporters last week during an event in Surakarta, Central Java.

Wearing traditional Muslim attire, Kaesang added fuel to the fire by proclaiming his readiness to be Depok’s number-one man in a video uploaded on his YouTube channel on Saturday. “With the blessing of my family, I, Kaesang Pangarep, am ready to be Depok’s mayor,” Kaesang proclaimed in the video.

Kaesang first hinted at his interest in politics in January during a private family lunch. “[Kaesang] has told me, but I always gave [my children] the freedom to do so. […] I don’t try to influence them, and I don’t make their decisions for them as they already have their own family,” President Jokowi commented at the time.

If Kaesang were to run for mayor of Depok, he would be the third of the President’s family to run for public office. Kaesang’s older brother, Gibran Rakabuming Raka, and the President’s son-in-law, Bobby Nasution, ran as the mayors of Surakarta and Medan in the 2020 regional elections, where they won their respective mayoral races.

Read also: PSI puts up roadside poster supporting Kaesang bid for Depok mayor

Initially, Kaesang hinted that he could run as the mayor of Surakarta or Sleman, both in Central Java, with Gibran stepping up to run as governor of Central Java. With Saturday’s announcement, however, Kaesang has taken the option to be closer to the capital Jakarta, where Jokowi was the governor from 2012 to 2014.

Party support

One of Jakarta’s satellite cities, Depok is noted as being a bastion for conservative Islam, with a Setara Institute report published in April naming the city as the second least-tolerant city in all of Indonesia. The Islam-based Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) has maintained a stranglehold over the region for the past 15 years, with PKS-backed candidates winning the four previous mayoral elections.

To officially run as mayor of Depok, Kaesang would need the backing of a party or a coalition of parties that holds more than 25 percent of seats in the city’s legislative council (DPRD). While the PSI has explicitly supported Kaesang’s theoretical bid, the party only holds one out of 50 seats in the legislative council, meaning Kaesang would need the support of other parties.

Gerindra, which holds 10 seats in Depok’s regional council, has welcomed Kaesang’s intention to enter politics. “Gerindra is ready to support [Kaesang] if he were to run as the mayor of Depok. […] The city needs someone young with creativity and innovation [like Kaesang],” Gerindra politician Ahmad Muzani told reporters on Saturday.

In the past, Kaesang has shown his affinity for Gerindra chairman Prabowo Subianto, one of the three frontrunners for the 2024 presidential election. Gibran shared a photo of Kaesang serving the defense minister food while he visited Jokowi during Idul Fitri in April, and Kaesang himself wore a Prabowo T-shirt in a video uploaded to his YouTube channel in May.


Read also: PDI-P considering Jokowi’s youngest son for Depok mayoral bid

While being less effusive, the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) nevertheless still left its door open for Gibran. “If Mas Kaesang is indeed interested, then we will make sure to educate him and put him through the ideological enrichment process where we prepare our future leaders,” PDI-P secretary-general Hasto Kristiyanto told reporters on Saturday.

Jokowi, Gibran and Bobby are all members of the PDI-P, and all three won their respective current positions with the backing of the party. Amid reports of souring relations with chairwoman Megawati Soekarnoputri, the President reiterated his support for the PDI-P and the party’s presidential nominee for 2024, Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo, during PDI-P’s national working meeting last week.

With the PDI-P requiring all members of one family to be members of the party, Kaesang might not have any other political option other than the PDI-P. The country is set to hold simultaneous regional elections in November 2024, nine months after the presidential and legislative elections in February next year.

Some experts, however, believe Kaesang’s latest viral video about his mayoral run is only a “marketing gimmick” for his businesses, according to several news reports.

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