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Jokowi's son Kaesang for Jakarta governor? Indonesians fear president could bend rules to extend influence

South China Morning Post - April 3, 2024

Resty Woro Yuniar – Speculation that Indonesian leader Joko Widodo's youngest son could contest the Jakarta gubernatorial election in November – despite not meeting the minimum age requirement for candidates – has sparked concern that the outgoing president could use his influence to alter the law, allowing his 29-year-old offspring to run for office.

Kaesang Pangarep is the chairman of Indonesian Solidarity Party (PSI), a minor political party that has yet to meet the 4 per cent election threshold required for a party to gain seats in the national legislature.

Before assuming the PSI chairmanship in September, the president's son was known more as an entrepreneur, selling a range of products from fried bananas and custom T-shirts to specialty coffee and rice bowls, although most of his companies were shut down after the pandemic. He was also once popular for his stock advice.

While Kaesang has not confirmed that he will run in the Jakarta gubernatorial race, his party has floated the idea of his nomination. PSI managed to gained eight seats in the Jakarta provincial legislature in February's general elections, despite not winning any in the national parliament.

"If the administrative requirements can be fulfilled, I think Kaesang is one of the figures that we can nominate [for the Jakarta gubernatorial election]. In my opinion, he is a very good figure," William Aditya Sarana, chairman of the PSI faction in Jakarta's parliament, said on March 27.

A 2016 law on regional elections requires that candidates for governor and deputy governor be at least 30 years old, while candidates for mayor and deputy mayor, as well as regent and deputy regent, must be at least 25. The Jakarta gubernatorial election is set for November 27, but Kaesang will only turn 30 in December.

'Reasonable suspicion'

On social media, PSI's idea swiftly sparked controversy, as some fear that the law will be bent to clear a path for Kaesang's candidacy.

Critics pointed to how Kaesang's brother, 36-year-old Gibran Rakabuming Raka, was only able to contest this year's national election as running mate to president-elect Prabowo Subianto after the constitutional court amended the age threshold rule for candidates.

In a controversial ruling, the court created an exception to the minimum age requirement of 40, allowing younger candidates to run as long as they had already been elected to another office. This paved the way for Gibran, the mayor of Solo, to join Prabowo's campaign.

At that time, the court was led by Chief Justice Anwar Usman, Gibran's uncle by marriage. The court's ethics council subsequently found that Anwar had breached ethics by not recusing himself from the case. He has since been demoted and barred from weighing in on election disputes.

"Looks like there are rotten intentions [here]. It's clear that Kaesang is not old enough, PSI instead wants to nominate him as Governor of Jakarta. We need to stay tuned to see what kind of tricks they will use to make Kaesang a Jakarta gubernatorial candidate. Are they going to use the [constitutional court] too?" user @StefanAntonio__ asked on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Firman Noor, a political analyst with the Jakarta-based National Research and Innovation Agency, said Indonesians had "a reasonable suspicion" since February's presidential election was "full of manipulation".

Widodo has been accused of meddling in the February election as he tacitly supported the Prabowo-Gibran pair, who won with more than 58 per cent of the votes. Losing presidential candidates, Anies Baswedan and Ganjar Pranowo, are currently seeking a revote by filing appeals demanding the results be annulled since Gibran's nomination process was deemed problematic.

"What he [Jokowi] has done so far is already very vulgar, for the sake of his son being elected vice-president. So if Kaesang runs [in the Jakarta gubernatorial election], Jokowi will definitely support him wholeheartedly," Firman said, referring to Widodo by his popular nickname.

Arya Fernandes, political researcher at Centre for Strategic and International Studies Indonesia, said the public's concerns "are justified" and that the possibility of the court changing the law to allow candidates under age 30 to contest the gubernatorial elections if they are leaders of a political party could not be ruled out.

"But there is a precedent to this. In 2019, a PSI cadre named Faldo Maldini filed a petition to the court to change the age requirement because he sought nomination in the West Sumatra gubernatorial election, even though he was under 30. The court denied the petition," Arya said.

"So I think with this post-presidential election situation, the court will be really careful. If the court suddenly grants it now, despite the precedent, people will question it."

Arya said Kaesang's potential nomination underlined a political dynasty trend in the Widodo family, with other members reportedly expected to contest local elections.

Kaesang's wife, Erina Gudono, could run in the Sleman regent election, while Widodo's son-in-law and Medan mayor Bobby Nasution has signalled his intention to join the North Sumatra gubernatorial race.

Analysts said it made sense for Widodo to support Kaesang to lead Jakarta as the city remained a strategic seat of power, despite his administration's current effort in developing a new capital from scratch in Borneo.

"Jakarta is still the barometer of national politics. Historically, the governors of Jakarta would become contestants in the presidential election," Arya said, citing Widodo and Anies as examples. Anies was Jakarta governor from 2017 to 2022.

However, Firman argued that Jakarta's voters were "more rational and demanding" than voters in other regions, and that Kaesang was "not a marketable figure" in the capital given his lack of political experience.

"In general, the supporter base that believes the Jakarta governor should be somebody like Anies is still very strong, and Kaesang is not yet in that category," he said.

In this year's election, the Prosperous Justice Party, a nationalist Islamist party which supported Anies' presidential and 2017 Jakarta gubernatorial bids, won in Jakarta with over 1 million votes, more than any other party.

Source: https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/politics/article/3257619/jokowis-son-kaesang-jakarta-governor-indonesians-fear-president-could-bend-rules-extend-influenc