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Analysis: Campaign to keep Jokowi beyond 2024 takes a legal course

Jakarta Post - March 13, 2023

Tenggara Strategics, Jakarta – The campaign to keep President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo in power beyond his term, which ends in October 2024, continues, this time going through the court, making it harder for anyone to stop it without being accused of tampering with the country's legal system.

The Central Jakarta District Court on March 2 ordered the General Elections Commission (KPU) to drop all preparations for the February 2024 election and to restart the entire process anew after it found the commission guilty for excluding a small unknown political party from the process.

The ruling did not specifically say that the election must be delayed but made clear that they cannot take place in 2024 "to punish the defendant (the KPU) to stop implementing the remaining stages of the preparation for the 2024 election from the date of this decision, and to go back with the preparations about two years, four months and seven days." This means if the verdict holds, the elections will be held in July 2025 at the earliest.

The backlash came swift and strong from many politicians who see this in the larger picture of the campaign that would allow President Jokowi to stay in power beyond what is permitted by the constitution, which limits a president to a maximum of a two-year term.

The KPU began the election preparations last year, and one of the first decisions it made was approving 17 political parties to contest the legislative elections and rejecting dozens of others for failing to meet the minimum requirements.

One of those rejected was the Prima Party, a new party which failed to meet the required minimum representation across the regions. The party had previously appealed to the Elections Supervisory Body (Bawaslu) and failed, and then went to the Jakarta Administrative Court and failed. It then filed a report with the Central Jakarta District Court, which last week ruled in its favor.

Constitutional experts say the case should have been dealt with by a civil court rather than a criminal court and that the Central Jakarta District Court went beyond its authority in ordering delays in holding the elections. The KPU has announced its intention to appeal against the court's decision, and many have come in support of the plan, including President Jokowi, who said the election preparations must continue. "This is a controversy that has its pros and cons, but the government supports the KPU to file an appeal," the President said on Tuesday in his first response to the court ruling.

The President has distanced himself from all campaigns waged on his behalf to stay in office beyond 2024, although he never outrightly condemned the move. One such campaign called on the People's Consultative Assembly to review the constitutional limit to three rather than two terms, but it found little support from political parties that control the assembly. This option is no longer available since amending the constitution will be a lengthy process that it is unlikely to be completed in time for the 2024 election.

What's more

Another campaign seeks to mobilize support to allow an extension of the current term beyond 2024, essentially delaying the election by a year or two, or even more. The campaign failed to garner massive support despite Jokowi's popularity. Most surveys say his approval rating remains above 50 percent, defying predictions of a lame duck president with less than two years in office.

Responding to these campaigns, President Jokowi has repeatedly stressed that he would step down when the time comes, and that the 2024 election would take place as scheduled.

However, he fell short of condemning these moves to keep him in office. At one stage, he even defended these as "people's aspirations" that should be respected in a democracy.

Although Jokowi does not chair any political party, millions of volunteers who campaigned for him in 2014 and 2019 remain loyal and have formed groups to support whatever plans he has for 2024 and beyond.

Supporters of extending his term, including many in his Cabinet and some political parties in his coalition government, say Jokowi needs to secure some of his legacies in place before he steps down.

One of these legacies is moving the seat of government out of Jakarta. A massive construction project is underway to build a new capital city out of a forest area in East Kalimantan. Jokowi has laid plans to build Nusantara, the name he gave to the new capital, in phases for the next 20 years or so. He plans to have something in place in Nusantara for civil servants to be working there in 2024.

The new capital project however is highly unpopular among the public because of the vast sums of money required. It risks being scrapped by the next incoming president, just as Jokowi scrapped the Java-Sumatra bridge project as soon as he moved into the presidential palace in 2014. The bridge project would have been a legacy of president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

For now, the fate of the new capital project and Jokowi's future in 2024 are in the hands of the Jakarta High Court, which will hear the KPU's appeal against the decision to delay the elections.

What we've heard

A constitutional law expert said the KPU commissioners had invited several experts to discuss and formulate its arguments to challenge the court's decision to delay the elections. "The appeal will be filed within 14 working days from the time the copy of the court decision is received by the KPU," the source said.

Several politicians who support the government also said that party officials are against the court decision. PDI-P secretary general Hasto Kristiyanto gathered a number of experts to review the court ruling. Through Hasto, PDI-P has filed a protest with Coordinating Political, Law and Security Affairs Minister Mahfud MD regarding the court order to delay the elections.

The Judicial Commission (KY) has received complaints from a coalition of civil society regarding the track record of the panel of justices adjudicating the Prima Party lawsuit. It contained allegations of violations of the code of ethics and code of conduct.

A KY official said that the commission is conducting an investigation into the Central Jakarta District Court judges, especially their partiality. According to the source, KY is looking for possible violations of the code of ethics that resulted in the controversial decision.

[This content is provided by Tenggara Strategics in collaboration with The Jakarta Post to serve the latest comprehensive and reliable analysis on Indonesia's political and business landscape.]

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/opinion/2023/03/13/analysis-campaign-to-keep-jokowi-beyond-2024-takes-a-legal-course.htm