JAKARTA (The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network): Coordinating Maritime Affairs and Investment Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan recently said that a majority of Indonesians supported a longer final term for President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo. But politicians and experts are challenging the claim, which was made after several party leaders within the pro-government coalition pushed for the 2024 general election to be postponed.
Hasto Kristiyanto of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), a ruling party of which Jokowi is a member but has rejected the idea of extending the President’s term, said Luhut's statement was out of bounds.
"I think Luhut needs to clarify in what capacity he was speaking [because] matters related to politics, law and security are under the authority of the coordinating political, legal and security affairs minister; electoral democracy and governance fall under the home affairs minister," he said in a press statement on Monday (March 14).
He urged Luhut to reveal details of his claim, including where he got his information. On a podcast with presenter and former mentalist Deddy Corbuzier on Friday, Luhut said he was aware of big data on social media conversations pointing to a majority of Indonesians who wanted to see Jokowi’s final term extended so he could lead Indonesia's pandemic recovery.
He claimed the data was sourced from 110 million social media users but did not provide further details on how and when the information was collected or by whom it was processed.
“The country's middle-to low-income [people] want [political] stability, as they are more concerned about the economy," Luhut said.
He cited Jokowi’s recent directive for a larger portion of the state budget to be spent on supporting local businesses instead of imports, pointing out that it was an example of why he was popular among middle- to low-income Indonesians.
Luhut further claimed that big data had captured online conversations on how it was not the right time for the government to be spending some Rp 110 trillion (US$7.6 billion) from the state budget on both the general elections and the regional elections, as the country was still trying to recover from a pandemic-induced economic slowdown.
The budget for the 2024 elections remains a contentious issue, with lawmakers and the government yet to approve the figure proposed by the General Elections Commission (KPU).
Various surveys have also contradicted Luhut's claims, saying that a majority of Indonesians, including those who are satisfied with Jokowi's performance as a president, wanted the elections to take place as scheduled.
The latest was a survey by Kompas daily that polled 1,000 people last week and found that 62 per cent of respondents wanted the upcoming presidential and legislative elections to be held on Feb 14, 2024, as originally planned. Only 10 per cent of respondents supported a two- or three-year postponement, 25 per cent said they did not care if the elections were delayed and 2 per cent did not answer.
The survey also found that the majority of respondents believed a delay would be motivated by a political agenda, not economic reasons.
Some politicians from the Democratic Party, which is not part of the ruling coalition, questioned the legitimacy of Luhut’s claims because it did not reflect findings of recent surveys, according to various reports.
Big data consulting company Drone Emprit founder Ismail Fahmi questioned the accuracy of the findings brought up by Luhut, saying that only a small fraction of the 18 million and 140 million Indonesians on Twitter and Facebook were actually engaging in online debates about politics.
“It’s impossible for over 110 million Indonesian accounts to be active in the [term extension] conversation online, unless [Luhut’s big data] mark-up its data more than 1,000 times,” Ismail said on Twitter on Saturday.
Constitutional law expert Feri Amsari said Luhut's statement could incite political instability. Talks of an extension of Jokowi’s term reignited when National Awakening Party (PKB) chairman Muhaimin Iskandar said in late February that the 2024 general election should be postponed by one or two years.
Following in the footsteps of the PKB, two other parties in the ruling coalition – the National Mandate Party (PAN) and the Golkar Party – expressed their support of the proposal.
Other parties in the coalition, including the PDI-P and the NasDem Party, meanwhile, have refused to back the idea.
Jokowi said last week that while everyone was free to have an opinion, including to suggest the postponement of the upcoming elections or a presidential term extension, any and all political actions should adhere to the Constitution.
However, this statement was also criticized by experts who said that it was not stern enough to put an end to the protracted debate.