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President Jokowi's political future still open to possibilities

Jakarta Post - May 31, 2024

Alifia Sekar and Nur Janti, Jakarta – While President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has parted way with the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), his political future looks promising as some political parties that have supported president-elect Prabowo Subianto have hinted at the possibility of him becoming party chair or holding a strategic party role after leaving office in October.

But this may not be straightforward, as the parties, which include Golkar and the National Mandate Party (PAN), are established institutions that have been running on fixed internal party regulations for decades.

High-ranking leaders of Golkar, which became the second largest political party after the PDI-P in the February legislative election, have welcomed Jokowi, with party chief and senior economic minister Airlangga Hartarto saying Jokowi and his son, vice president-elect Gibran Rakabuming Raka, are "already part of the Golkar family."

Golkar deputy chairman Erwin Aksa said the party welcomes Jokowi, but his entry also depends on what Jokowi wants from the party.

"Pak Jokowi, of course, has plans for Golkar. He's the one who knows his plans for after [his term ends] on Oct. 20," he told The Jakarta Post on Friday.

Erwin said it was not possible for Jokowi to lead the country's oldest political party based on the party's current internal regulations, which require that candidates for party chairmanship serve on its executive board for at least one full period.

But a regulation change, he said, "is possible" during a party congress, which is slated for December, to open the doors for Jokowi to become party chairman.

PAN has also hinted at giving Jokowi a strategic position on the party's advisory board he decides to join.

"Pak Jokowi's position is already above the chairman, [so] he deserves to take a strategic role that oversees all [party] interests, including giving directions to be executed by board members, the chairman and the secretary-general," PAN Secretary-General Eddy Soeparno told the Post.

Sea of possibilities

Unlike previous presidents, Jokowi does not helm his own political party. Questions on what the future holds for the outgoing President remain up in the air, as Jokowi has yet to declare whether he will join any party after leaving the PDI-P, the party that brought him to power.

The PDI-P officially ended ties with the President following his tacit endorsement of his eldest son Gibran the vice presidential candidate for Gerindra Party chairman Prabowo Subianto, the country's defense minister, in the February election. The PDI-P chose to endorse its card-carrying member Ganjar Pranowo who lost the presidential race in distant third place.

Communications and Information Minister Budi Arie Setiadi, who since the 2014 presidential election has led Projo, the largest Jokowi supporter group, said on Wednesday that it would be reasonable if the volunteer group wanted to support Jokowi to be the party chairman upon ending his term.

"Pak President is too young to retire [from politics]," he told the press at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta.

He encouraged Jokowi to join a political party that was nationalistic and close to the community in line with the values of Projo.

"The Golkar [Party]? Yes, anything is possible. It can also be the NasDem Party [or] the National Mandate Party," he continued.

Because of the President's close relationship with and endorsement of Prabowo, many believe that Golkar and Gerindra are the two strongest contenders to provide the outgoing president with a post-presidency political vessel.

Careful consideration

NasDem Party Secretary-General Hermawi F. Taslim refrained from commenting on the possibility of his party endorsing Jokowi as a candidate for party leadership, but said that NasDem was open to anyone who wants to join as a member.

NasDem initially ran against Prabowo in this year's presidential election, as the party endorsed presidential candidate Anies Baswedan. But NasDem chairman Surya Paloh announced last month that his party would support the incoming government by standing within the ruling coalition.

Jokowi's son-in-law and Medan Mayor Bobby Nasution, who is seeking to run for North Sumatra governor in November regional elections, has joined Gerindra, which finished third after Golkar in the February election.

Bobby was forced to apply for membership and support from other political parties after the PDI-P revoked his membership. The North Sumatra chapter of Golkar is floating other names, including local Golkar politician and former North Sumatra deputy governor Musa Rajekshah.

But Gerindra politicians have been careful when speaking about Jokowi's political future with the party, with chairman Prabowo currently preparing his cabinet and building a coalition with some political parties that did not support him in the presidential election.

Executive chairman of the Prabowo-led Gerindra Party Sufmi Dasco Ahmad refused to answer whether his party would offer Jokowi a strategic position.

"To talk about strategic issues in the Gerindra Party, I have to consult first with the party chairman [Prabowo],' he told the Post on Friday.

New political party?

Experts have agreed that it will not be enough for Jokowi only to be a card-carrying member of a political party if he wishes to retain his influence in the country's political landscape, although doubts are mounting over his chances of seizing the chair position of any of the existing major parties.

"Jokowi must be a party chairman [...] in order not to be abandoned by his supporters and remain respected by his political opponents," said Ujang Komarudin, a political analyst from Jakarta's Al-Azhar University.

"However, no [large] political party wants Jokowi to suddenly become chairman [because] party members must first go through a long cadre process," he continued.

As such, Ujang argued that Jokowi might best form his own new political party with the help of Projo supporters, and become its chairman. He added that the outgoing President could also step in as chairman of the Indonesian Solidarity Party (PSI) – now led by his youngest son Kaesang Pangarep – although his influence might be limited given that the party did not make it into parliament this year.

Lembaga Survei Indonesia (LSI) executive director Djayadi Hanan concurred, saying that Jokowi's chances of taking over the chairmanship of a large political party was difficult given that many internal members are also gunning to be the next chairman.

"Jokowi is about to end his term, so his influence on major political parties is not as strong as it was [when] he was just starting his second term [in 2019]," he added.

Djayadi instead argued that the most realistic option for Jokowi now was to build up the PSI, as he was not convinced that creating a new party through Projo volunteers could exert as much political influence.

Source: https://asianews.network/president-jokowis-political-future-still-open-to-possibilities