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Analysis: Constitutional and ethical issues with Jokowi running for VP

Jakarta Post - September 26, 2022

Tenggara Strategics, Jakarta – President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's supporters have figured out another way to extend his political career beyond 2024, namely by having him run as vice president. The idea gained traction when Constitutional Court spokesman Fajar Laksono raised the issue, but observers say it is just a bad idea from the lens of ethics and, perhaps, the Constitution itself.

Earlier this year, the country's political landscape shivered amid a controversial discourse on extending Jokowi's presidency beyond the constitutional two-term limit. Such talks also included the possibility of postponing the 2024 legislative and presidential elections entirely in the name of political stability the country needs to accelerate economic recovery post-pandemic. As the debate died down, so rose another.

Fajar said while the 1945 Constitution bars a president from seeking a third mandate, it does not explicitly prohibit him or her from running for the second highest office. Though Fajar claimed there was no motive behind those remarks, the Constitutional Court underlined that the spokesman was speaking in his personal capacity.

Article 7 of the Constitution says the president and vice president can hold office for five years and after that be re-elected in the same office for only one term. This is also supported by Article 169 of Election Law No. 7/2017, which stipulates that any individual can be elected president and vice president as long as they have never held office for two terms.

Technically speaking, though the two articles may not explicitly keep Jokowi from running as vice president, the issue lies in Article 8 of the Constitution, according to the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) deputy speaker Ahmad Basarah. The article stipulates that if the president dies, resigns, is impeached or is not capable of fulfilling his or her mandate, the vice president will take over. Hence, should Jokowi be elected the vice president, he would not be allowed to step in for the president if any of such things happened.

Not only would such a scenario disrupt the running of the government, but if those in office are unable to make strategic decisions because the acting president cannot be appointed, a reelection will have to be held in the end. This would be no easy feat considering that Indonesia held the world's largest single-day presidential election in 2019, which has also been deemed the most complex.

Moreover, the internal affairs of the government may not be conducive in that scenario either. The president might not be able to freely critique policies of the previous administration if Jokowi, who would have 10 years of experience in running the country, is still present.

Jokowi himself has rejected the idea, saying he wasn't the one to start the controversy. Though he has spoken up in a similar matter before – such as when he had to order his supporters to stop talking about an extension on his second term last April – observers say that he could have made a firmer statement.

What's more

Muhammadiyah's Institute for Wisdom and Public Policy (LHKP) chairman Agus HS Reksoprodjo said the discourse was clearly driven by Jokowi supporters and served as an extension of previous issues, like Jokowi running for a third term. Agus reiterated that such discourse was unhealthy for the country's young democracy and intentionally limits the power of the Constitution.

Having Jokowi run as vice president was initially brought up by the Gerindra Party deputy chairman Habiburokhman. On Sept. 14, he said that he did not rule out the possibility of having Jokowi as party chairman Prabowo Subianto's running mate for the upcoming election. The issue then received more attention after Fajar's statement. Chairman of the Pelita Party's consultative assembly (MPP), Din Syamsuddin, even commented that Fajar should be sanctioned for making the statement.

Immanuel Ebenezer, chairman of the Jokowi Mania (Joman) volunteer group, also opposed the idea, claiming that it would be more respectable for Jokowi to support an aspiring presidential candidate, such as outgoing Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan. He reminded that executive power needs to be limited in accordance with the spirit of reform.

What we've heard

A key official in the Presidential Staff Office said the president was fully committed to completing his term of office in 2024 and would not seek to cling on power by running for vice president.

According to the source, the call for Jokowi to vie for the VP seat came from a group of volunteers supporting Jokowi, whose aspirations are currently divided. Some want Jokowi to fight for a third term, while others want him to stay for an additional two to three years. On the other hand, the source said, "there are those that want Jokowi to run as vice president."

Though the idea did not come from the State Palace, two Gerindra Party executives said the party seriously considered the option of pushing Jokowi to run for vice president. The sources said there is a small group within the party working to realize this scenario by having Jokowi as Prabowo's running mate. "That's a viable option," said the source.

This politician added, however, that the Constitution does prevent Jokowi from running as vice president. Article 8 says in the event of force majeure the vice president replaces the president. If Jokowi were elected the vice president the article cannot hold because Jokowi has served as president twice.

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/opinion/2022/09/26/analysis-constitutional-and-ethical-issues-with-jokowi-running-for-vp.htm