Jakarta – Indonesian President Joko Widodo has brushed off accusations by critics that he is looking to create a political dynasty after a decision by his son and son-in-law to run for mayoral posts in next year's regional elections.
When Widodo was elected for his first term in 2014, the former furniture salesman and small town mayor seemed to offer a clean break from the military and political elite that had clung to power since the fall of strongman ruler Suharto in 1998.
Widodo, who recently started a second term, was questioned by reporters about his eldest son, Gibran Rakabuming Raka, following in his footsteps by registering to run for mayor of Solo on Java island and his son-in-law, Bobby Nasution, running for mayor in the city of Medan in Sumatra.
"That's a competition. You can win, or lose in competitions, it's up to the people with the right to choose," Widodo said on Thursday in televised comments posted on the Twitter feed of the tvOne news channel.
His son has the backing of Widodo's party, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), but the president said it was purely Raka's decision to run for mayor.
Family ties often run deep in Indonesian politics. The family of the country's founding father and first president, Sukarno, have remained a major force in politics.
Sukarno's daughter, Megawati Sukarnoputri, was Indonesia's fifth president and currently chairs PDI-P. Sukarnoputri's daughter, Puan Maharani, is speaker of parliament.
Aria Bima, a PDI-P politician, told Reuters that he did not see any issues with Widodo's family members running for office. "As long as there's personal, professional and social competence with the right ideology, that's not oligarchy," he said.
Widodo became Solo's first directly elected mayor in 2005 and was hugely popular after cleaning up the streets and public spaces with incentives and persuasion to shift thousands of illegal vendors to new facilities.
Titi Anggraini, executive director of the Association for Elections and Democracy, a electoral watchdog, said the entry of his family into politics risked tarnishing Widodo's reputation.
"Despite having no practical experience in politics or being trained properly in political parties, Raka and Nasution's bid is a sign of Widodo's family wanting to preserve its power," she said.
[Reporting by Stanley Widianto; Editing by Ed Davies and Toby Chopra.]