APSN Banner

Thousands of students protest in Indonesia over rumoured extension to President Joko Widodo's term, cost of living

ABC News - April 11, 2022

Large groups of students have protested in Indonesia over high cooking-oil prices and a potential extension of President Joko Widodo's stay in office, despite attempts by the popular leader to dampen speculation of a plan being hatched to keep him in power longer.

Demonstrations took place in several parts of Indonesia, including South Sulawesi, West Java and in the capital, Jakarta, where hundreds of students wearing neon jackets marched towards parliament to complain about the rising cost of goods and the prospect of the President outstaying his two-term limit.

Indonesian police fired tear gas and deployed water cannon during a protest in Jakarta after students walked to a parliamentary building, a witness told the Reuters news agency.

Crowds of demonstrators were seen running away from the scene outside parliament, according to a witness, while local media reported rocks had been thrown into the complex.

There were no immediate reports of injuries.

Protesters chanted about protecting the country's democratic progress and also against soaring fuel and food prices.

"We demand that the lawmakers do not betray the country's constitution by amending it," said Kaharuddin, a protest coordinator. "We want them to listen to people's aspirations."

The idea of a term extension for Mr Widodo – either by changing the constitution or delaying the 2024 election – has gained momentum lately in the world's third-largest democracy after some influential political figures publicly backed it.

Powerful political figures – including cabinet ministers Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan and Airlangga Hartarto, who is also chair of the Golkar party in the governing coalition – have suggested that the election should be delayed.

On Sunday, for a second time in under a week, Mr Widodo urged ministers and security chiefs to cease discussion of the issue, saying it was clear that an election would be held in February 2024, as planned.

"Don't let there be speculation among the public that the government is trying to delay the election or speculate on extending the presidential term or anything related to a third term," he told a meeting.

The idea of allowing more than the maximum two, five-year terms as president has fuelled concern about a threat to hard-won democratic reforms.

Students have traditionally been at the forefront of efforts to protect Indonesia's democratic gains, after taking to the streets in 1998 during huge protests that helped topple former strongman President Suharto.

Mr Widodo has retained a high approval rating since he was first elected in 2014, but a recent survey by pollster Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting (SMRC) showed more than 70 per cent of Indonesians reject the extension plan.

The President has been criticised for his ambiguous stance on the issue, calling it a slap in the face and just "an idea", but without explicitly rejecting it or ruling out staying in power longer. (Reuters/AP)

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-04-11/indonesia-students-protest-joko-widodo-term-cost-of-living/10098373