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Indonesian trade minister causes uproar over campaigning for 2024 election

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Straits Times - July 13, 2022

Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja, Jakarta – Newly minted Trade Minister Zulkifli Hasan has caused an uproar in Indonesia after he and his daughter were seen distributing free cooking oil to residents in Lampung province, Sumatra, and engaging in early political campaigning.

Netizens have shared footage of the event – which took place last weekend in Teluk Betung Timur – on social media, sparking outrage.

Teluk Betung Timur is the electoral seat the minister's daughter, Ms Futri Zulya, will be contesting in the 2024 general election, set to take place on Feb 14.

The furore caused by the viral video prompted President Joko Widodo on Tuesday (July 12) to remind all ministers to focus on their government work.

Mr Zulkifli, who was sworn in as trade minister less than a month ago and was tasked to control surging domestic prices, including for cooking oil, is also chairman of the National Mandate Party, which will participate in the next election.

Campaigning for the 2024 election is allowed only between Nov 28, 2023, and Feb 10, 2024, according to the election commission's decree.

In the video, Mr Zulkifli is heard shouting to the crowd that they would be handed two litres of cooking oil for free, while pointing at his daughter, Ms Futri, and saying she paid for it.

"But you will all vote for Futri right? If you do, we will do this event every two months," Mr Zulkifli is heard saying.

Netizens have reacted negatively to the footage, saying such acts show that the duo are not worth the people's votes in the next election and that the incident has revealed the minister and his daughter do not genuinely want to help the people.

"Hopefully, people can think clearly when evaluating ministers and vote wisely in the next election," said one netizen, Ms Endang Setiawaty.

But some netizens supported the Trade Minister and his daughter. One wanted to be identified only as Farris, and said gratitude was owed as giving away cooking oil to people helps to alleviate the burden of the rising cost of living.

Indonesia will hold its five-yearly presidential and legislative elections in less than two years. Mr Widodo, who is completing his second term, is prohibited by the Constitution from seeking re-election.

Cabinet ministers who come from political parties have historically been distracted from their government job ahead of an election.

In the current political landscape, the president has to appoint both pure technocrats and politicians to his Cabinet, to balance political stability with competence. This is necessary to maintain ample and stable support from Indonesia's very active Parliament.

In the past, State-owned Enterprises Minister Erick Thohir had claimed the spotlight by appearing on the screens of four state banks' ATMs, conspicuously on large monitor screens at state companies' office lobbies, as well as on public promotion materials such as marketing flags on the roadside.

Indonesia has weak and rarely enforced conflict of interest laws, leading to rampant breaches.

Being in the second popularity tier, among candidates with less than 10 per cent popularity rating in the surveys, Mr Erick has been touted as a possible vice-presidential candidate, competing against other hopefuls such as East Java Governor Khofifah Indar Parawansa, Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Airlangga Hartarto, and Mr Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, chairman of the Democratic Party, which was founded by his father, former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

On the first popularity tier, the three most popular candidates – according to various surveys == have been Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto, Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo, and Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan.

Source: https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/indonesian-trade-minister-causes-uproar-over-campaigning-for-2024-electio

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