Jakarta, Feb 3 (Bloomberg): When Joko Widodo became Indonesia’s president nearly a decade ago, he was celebrated as a political outsider. By the time he leaves office next year, he will have a dynasty in place that expands his influence.
The president’s youngest son is the latest in the family to reveal political ambitions with a bid to become a mayor in the 2024 elections. Jokowi, as the president is known, has three children and one of them is the mayor of Surakarta in Java that has an outsize influence in determining future leaders.
His son-in-law runs Medan - Indonesia’s fifth largest city.
Jokowi’s popularity can bolster his family members in the polls and a political dynasty may give him leverage to decide on future candidates in the ruling party dominated by former president Megawati Soekarnoputri - who is also part of an influential clan.
More pressingly, this could give Jokowi the political heft to influence government policies after he completes his second and final term in office. And there’s plenty at stake: the US$34 billion construction of Indonesia’s new capital city in Borneo that’s a major plank of his legacy.
"Jokowi’s chances of becoming kingmaker are getting bigger,” said D. Nicky Fahrizal, a researcher at the Jakarta-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies. "First, because of the influence of Javanese politics or philosophy, which restrains people from taking over leadership openly. So, being the person behind the scenes is the most likely. Like the puppeteer and the puppet.”
This isn’t unprecedented. Jokowi was able to run for president in 2014 and 2019 after Megawati endorsed and allowed him to contest under her Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle or PDI-P. Behind the scenes, she advised Jokowi on his selection of ministers to form the cabinet.
Jokowi’s eldest son Gibran Rakabuming Raka told local media on Jan. 25 of his youngest brother’s plans to enter politics. Kaesang Pangarep, a 28-year-old entrepreneur who runs several food and beverage businesses and had studied in schools in Singapore, wants to contest in the regional elections next year.
Though Kaesang has yet to publicly confirm whether he will become a politician, media speculation is rife that he could run as mayor of Surakarta - a position now held by Gibran who in turn wiill contest for Jakarta governor in the elections. Jokowi was previously mayor of these two cities.
Kaesang’s spokesperson did not respond to Bloomberg News queries. Gibran said that both he and his brother still have "a lot to learn from their seniors.”
"This is a competition, not an appointment,” Gibran said. "You can win, you can lose. There is no obligation to vote for me.”
Jokowi himself has dispelled the idea that he was forming a political dynasty.
"I have never interfered in their affairs, because they are adults and they already have families,” he said in an interview with Bloomberg News in August of his family members.
Signs still point to Jokowi flexing his political muscle ahead of the 2024 elections with campaigning starting in the second half of this year. Within the PDI-P, there’s already a gridlock in choosing the party’s presidential nominee - Jokowi is widely seen as pushing for Central Java governor Ganjar Pranowo to be the next president, while Megawati is lobbying for her daughter Puan Maharani.
The party needs Jokowi though. His popularity, currently at an all time high, could boost PDI-P’s chances to again become the dominant political force after the 2024 elections.
"Jokowi is institutionalizing politics that’s centered on him,” said political analyst Sirojudin Abbas, executive director of Jakarta-based Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting. "This institutionalization makes Jokowi’s political influence more sustained.” - Bloomberg