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Criticisms over Indonesia's court ruling amid talk that Jokowi's son may run in Jakarta elections

Straits Times - May 31, 2024

Hariz Baharudin, Jakarta – A court ruling that approved a regulatory change in the minimum age of candidates in Indonesia's regional elections has sparked criticism, amid speculation that President Joko Widodo's 29-year-old son is seeking to run in the Jakarta elections.

This is the second time in seven months that an Indonesian court has approved such a constitutional change. The first court ruling in October 2023 was linked to Mr Widodo's elder son.

Citing a need for "youngsters" to lead, the Garuda Party – an obscure group aligned with the future ruling coalition – filed a petition in the Supreme Court in April to allow candidates to be aged 30 when inaugurated, rather than when their election bid is confirmed.

News broke on May 30 that the court had approved the change, amid swirling rumours that Mr Widodo's younger son, Mr Kaesang Pangarep, 29, was being promoted as a potential candidate for deputy governor of Jakarta, where regional elections will be held in November. Mr Kaesang turns 30 in December.

The General Elections Commission (KPU) has yet to decide if the minimum age should be amended following the ruling.

But soon after the news, various terms related to the ruling started to trend on social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.

These included Mr Kaesang's name as well as "Milik Adik" – a pun on the initials of the Supreme Court's Indonesian name Mahkamah Agung – which translates into "belonging to the younger sibling". The term has more than 10,200 mentions so far.

Mr Kaesang is the younger brother of incoming vice-president Gibran Rakabuming Raka, who was similarly allowed to run in the presidential election in February, which he and defence minister Prabowo Subianto won by a landslide.

The Constitutional Court, or Mahkamah Konstitusi, issued a special ruling in October 2023 that effectively allowed Mr Gibran to contest the election despite being 36 years old, younger than the minimum age of 40.

The term "Milik Kakak" or "belonging to the older sibling" has also started to trend on X recently, appearing in more than 18,400 tweets as at May 31.

"This is embarrassing... With this, Jokowi's youngest son Kaesang can run as a candidate for governor in the 2024 regional elections. We're biting our fingers over this," said X user Jhon Sitorus.

In a video post on Instagram that has garnered more than 49,000 likes since May 30, theatre director and internet personality Andovi Da Lopez lashed out against the ruling, saying it left him "flabbergasted".

"We can't just change the rules to suit something that is needed for the current 'priorities'. Does that make any sense? We can't just do that over and over again," he said.

He added that he has nothing against any individuals running in elections, but has issues with Indonesia's political system.

Mr Kaesang, who is Singapore-educated, is best known for his fried banana and potato chip businesses, as well as his recent appointment as head of Indonesia's Solidarity Party (PSI).

Social media posts have featured mock election posters of Mr Budisatrio Djiwandono from Gerindra Party, who is the nephew of president-elect Prabowo Subianto, together with Mr Kaesang. This has fuelled speculation about their candidacy in mainstream media outlets as well as on social media.

Mr Prabowo's Gerindra party and PSI officials have not made any official comments on Mr Kaesang's candidacy, but the posters were shared on Gerindra's official Instagram page, and by a top Gerindra official, on May 29.

Gerindra secretary-general Ahmad Muzani was quoted by The Jakarta Post as saying that Mr Budisatrio was a possible candidate whom "we are currently preparing to lead Jakarta". He did not comment on Mr Kaesang's candidacy.

Members from the current ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), the former party of Mr Widodo and Mr Gibran, have said that they will lobby other parties against the revision to the law and to overturn the court's decision.

PDI-P lawmaker Djarot Saiful Hidayat told reporters on May 30: "We cannot (oppose) the law revision alone, so we communicate (with other factions) to remove (controversial) provisions."

Another PDI-P politician, Mr Chico Hakim, also criticised the changes to the law, saying that they would benefit certain figures.

"This country continues to be forced to accommodate leaders without experience, without a clear track record, who have minimal achievements and are not old enough," he added.

Although Jakarta, a metropolis of 10.5 million people, is set to lose its status as Indonesia's capital to Nusantara in East Kalimantan later in 2024, the role of the city's governor remains highly coveted. This is because the city will remain a financial and business hub. Historically, Jakarta's past governors have gone on to achieve greater things.

Mr Widodo, who will step down in October, served as governor of Jakarta from 2012 until he won the 2014 presidential election.

The court ruling will likely fuel concerns about the extent of dynastic politics in Indonesia, which is the world's third-largest democracy, amid allegations of a lack of integrity in its top courts.

Once the KPU receives the official ruling document from the court, it will decide if the minimum age requirement for regional election candidates should be amended, said Mr Dedi Dinarto, lead Indonesia analyst at strategic advisory firm Global Counsel.

"If the KPU opts for changes, it is uncertain if it will take effect from the 2024 regional elections. This uncertainty arises because the 2024 regional election process began in early May, meaning any regulatory changes may not apply," said Mr Dedi.

Significant political pressure is expected from groups supporting the candidacy of Mr Budisatrio and Mr Kaesang, he added.

"If this scenario unfolds, critics of the government are likely to accuse the establishment of perpetuating dynastic politics by gaming the regulatory system."

Source: https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/criticisms-over-indonesia-s-court-ruling-amid-talk-that-jokowi-s-son-may-run-in-jakarta-election