Indonesia’s Popular Leader Jokowi Balances Loyalties Ahead of Presidential Election
Jakarta (Reuters) – Joko Widodo, widely known as Jokowi, Indonesia’s beloved leader, is strategically positioning himself between the top two presidential candidates as he prepares to step down. Jokowi is nurturing a dynasty and securing his lasting influence, sources reveal.
Amid his inability to seek re-election, Jokowi is covertly rallying support for ex-general Prabowo Subianto, despite appearing to back the contender from his own ruling party. This political maneuvering showcases Jokowi’s transactional nature and self-interest, as he refuses to let go of power just yet, analysts say.
Both leading candidates have expressed their commitment to continuing Jokowi’s economic policies, ensuring continuity for major projects such as relocating the capital and developing the electric vehicle industry.
However, this consolidation of power through patronage and dynastic politics contradicts the democratic reforms achieved since Indonesia’s transition from authoritarian rule twenty-five years ago.
Jokowi’s divided loyalties have raised questions about his motivations and intentions. The presidential palace remains tight-lipped about the matter.
The ruling Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) has nominated Ganjar Pranowo, a regional governor, as its candidate, while Prabowo, who lost to Jokowi twice before, is running as the opposition candidate. Recent polls show a close race between them.
Jokowi’s endorsement, given his 80% approval ratings, holds significant weight and will influence the outcome of the upcoming election.
Playing a “Double Game”
Jokowi’s volunteer network, a strong indicator of his preferences, recently announced their support for Prabowo. This move adds to the opaque “double game” that Jokowi has been playing for months, as confirmed by multiple sources.
Last August, Jokowi summoned the head of Golkar, a major parliamentary party, to endorse Prabowo, despite the party’s initial inclination to support Ganjar. This unexpected turn of events led both Golkar and the National Mandate Party (PAN) to back Prabowo.
While PAN denied these claims, Jokowi has also extended support to Ganjar by deploying teams and volunteer groups for his campaign. In September, Jokowi publicly expressed his advice to Ganjar on leading the nation, further complicating the situation.
Experts believe that Jokowi’s discreet backing of Prabowo stems from his desire to establish his own power base amid a growing rift between him and PDI-P chair Megawati Sukarnoputri, a prominent figure in Indonesian politics. Additionally, Jokowi has discussed potential vice presidential candidates for both Ganjar and Prabowo.
A Balancing Act and the Rise of a Dynasty
These behind-the-scenes political maneuvers are striking in a country that fought against corruption and nepotism in 1998, leading to the downfall of authoritarian ruler Suharto.
Jokowi, who was elected for his independence from the Suharto-era old guard, has ironically deepened Indonesia’s patronage politics during his tenure. However, this has not diminished his popularity among the nation’s 270 million people.
Recent developments suggest that Jokowi is also focused on building his own dynasty. His son, Gibran Rakabuming Raka, the mayor of Surakarta, has been touted as a possible vice presidential candidate for Prabowo, despite not meeting the minimum age requirement of 40 years. The Constitutional Court is expected to rule on this matter soon.
Moreover, Jokowi’s youngest son, Kaesang Pangarep, recently joined and became the head of the Indonesian Solidarity Party, while his son-in-law, Bobby Nasution, serves as the mayor of Medan.
These strategic placements reflect Jokowi’s long-term vision and the uncertainty surrounding his loyalties. As Yoes C. Kenawas, a research fellow, aptly puts it, “Ganjar and Prabowo may be ‘Jokowi’s men,’ but who knows what will happen once Jokowi steps down? Blood is thicker than water.”