Jokowi must not be tempted to follow Trump's lead

After he lost the challenge of his defeat at the Constitutional Court, Prabowo (left) congratulated Jokowi, and in 2019 he agreed to become the defense minister in Jokowi's cabinet. — AFP

SOME world leaders – either from advanced or developing countries, not excluding Indonesia – one day may be eager to emulate former United States president Donald Trump, who brilliantly manipulated his fanatical followers to do whatever he wanted, even if it put their own lives at risk. Even though Trump legitimately lost the election, his die-hard supporters still believe he is an innocent victim of election fraud.

To be honest, initially I was reluctant to think that President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo would ever feel tempted to take advantage of millions of his loyal supporters, who are not prepared to follow any leader other than Jokowi. But the urge to run again may arise when his second five-year term draws to a close in October 2024.

US history will likely immortalise Trump as the superpower’s worst president ever. For more than 74 million American citizens who voted for him in the Nov 3 election, however, Trump will remain a messiah.

The inauguration of the new US president and vice president last Wednesday was conducted in a war zone-like atmosphere. In the past, security was tightened to prevent foreign terrorist attacks, but now terror threats look to come from home.

Biden will inherit a chaotic US. More than 400,000 Americans have lost their lives to Covid-19, partly due to Trump’s incompetence. The superpower is losing its power and influence among its foes and most loyal allies.

For at least one year, the Biden administration will be preoccupied with its domestic agenda, including managing the fanatical Republicans. So, forget the Indo-Pacific concept at least for a while. When Trump supporters stormed the Capitol on Jan 6, many Indonesians compared the shameful occupation attempt to the takeover of the House of Representatives by protesters just a few days before Suharto ended his 32-year dictatorship on May 21,1998.

In DC, violent and armed Trump defenders stormed the Capitol in a desperate effort to foil the certification of Biden. The Indonesian protestors did not damage the legislative building, although reports said they left many used condoms.

Indonesia fared better than the US in managing post-election division at least in the 2014 and 2019 presidential elections, which Jokowi won.

On both occasions Prabowo challenged his defeat at the Constitutional Court, citing systematic, massive, structured fraud, but to no avail. He soon congratulated Jokowi and in 2019 he agreed to become the defense minister. Despite the elite reconciliation, Indonesia has remained divided, extremely between the lovers and the haters of Jokowi.

There are similarities between Suharto and Trump in the way they let their children and cronies expand their business during their terms.

Trump was more shameless in this regard as he promoted his own children and son-in-law to senior positions at the White House. In the case of Suharto, he only appointed his eldest daughter Siti “Tutut” Hardiyanti Rukmana to a Cabinet post as social affairs minister. She only served for three months as her father fell from grace.

If there was no pandemic, Trump would have stood a better chance of winning a second term, despite his catastrophic leadership, because the economy was doing well. Apart from Trump, populist leaders have thrived such as Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and to a certain extent Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

How about our own leader? In a divided Indonesia, Jokowi is always right or wrong. His supporters in general are nationalists, moderate Muslims and minorities. His detractors, who voted for Prabowo, are conservative Muslims or those who still dream of the military’s return to power.

Just two months into Jokowi’s second term, several politicians, including from parties in the ruling coalition, NasDem and the United Development Party, initiated a discourse about the possibility for Jokowi to rule for a third term through a constitutional amendment. Their arguments were similar to those who wanted Suharto to hold on power in the past.

Jokowi has bluntly rejected the idea and described it as the idea of people who just want to please, if not trap, him. “My position is clear. I don’t agree with the three-term idea, ” Jokowi said.

But trust me, Jokowi could change his mind when his second term is close to an end in 2024.

To stay in power is a strong temptation that is hard to resist. People around him with vested interests and his ready-to-die supporters will try to convince him that there will be no Indonesia without him.

I voted for Jokowi in the Jakarta gubernatorial election in 2012, as well as in the 2014 and 2019 presidential elections. As part of a minority, I feel very protected under Jokowi’s leadership, although there is a price that I have to pay for the comfort. But we should not let Jokowi become another Trump, who exercised the power of the masses to reach his personal goals.

My warning is perhaps too early, or baseless for many. President Jokowi, I do trust your statesmanship. This is a friendly reminder from an ordinary citizen of Indonesia. — The Jakarta Post/ANN

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