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Jokowi's relations with PDI-P hit a new low

Tan KW
Publish date: Tue, 26 Sep 2023, 07:35 PM
Tan KW
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JAKARTA : The relationship between President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), of which the President is a member, has gone from bad to worse in the leadup to the 2024 presidential election, as the highly popular leader seeks to carve out a political path for his family when he is no longer in the State Palace.

The PDI-P has repeatedly played down suggestions that its relationship with the President is strained, despite the latter’s political manoeuvres, which analysts have said severely undercut the interests of the nation’s largest party.

In a critical blow to the nationalist party, Jokowi gave his blessing to his youngest son, Kaesang Pangarep, to join the Indonesian Solidarity Party (PSI), a small political party with which the PDI-P has been at odds since the 2019 election.

The PSI, a politically liberal but economically conservative party, has gained traction among young and urban voters on social media, posing a real threat to the grand old nationalist party.

“We happen to have something in common, which is our wish for young people to be more involved in the public sector, because we know, especially in elections, young people are usually used as passive objects rather than active ones,” Kaesang said after receiving his membership card from the party at his father’s private residence in Surakarta.

“I see PSI as a party filled with young people who have the integrity, competence and enthusiasm needed to make Indonesia better, but it was unfortunate that they failed to enter the [legislature],” Kaesang said.

Breaking tradition Kaesang is the first member of Jokowi’s family to join a political party other than the PDI-P. His older brother, Surakarta Mayor Rakabuming Raka, and his brother-in-law, Medan Mayor Bobby Nasution, are all card-carrying members of the PDI-P, like their father, who started his political career as Surakarta mayor.

Kaesang is reportedly joining the PSI to contest the local election in Depok, a densely populated suburb of Jakarta that has long been the stronghold of the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), an Islamist opposition party.

If elected, he would be the third member of the First Family to lead a city or regency, further consolidating the influence of the President’s nascent political dynasty.

Not only did Kaesang break the family tradition of joining the PDI-P, he also potentially broke the party’s constitution, which specifically bans family of its members from joining other political parties.

The PDI-P leadership warned Kaesang of the policy when rumours of his plan to join the PSI began to circulate. This has sparked speculation that the party might have to expel the family, though it has ruled out such a possibility.

The “rule only applies to the nuclear family” of party cadres, except “those who start a new family of their own”, said PDI-P executive Djarot Syaiful Hidayat, highlighting the fact that “[Kaesang] is married and has his own nuclear family.”

Jokowi said he did not encourage his son to join the PSI, but that he did give his blessing.

"Naturally, he sought the family's blessing [to join PSI]. Even if I had objected, he would have remained resolute. You know, that's my son's character," he said.

Kaesang’s decision to join the rival party was indicative that the relationship between the President and PDI-P matron Megawati Soekarnoputri “has reached its lowest point” since the party catapulted the then little-known Surakarta mayor into the presidency, according to Trias Politika Strategis executive director Agung Baskowo.

Jokowi-Megawati relations went south when the leaders became competing kingmakers for the 2024 election.

In recent months, the President is said to have rallied support for his defence minister, Prabowo Subianto, the main competitor of the PDI-P’s presidential nominee, Ganjar Pranowo.

Prabowo has repeatedly claimed that he is Jokowi’s true successor, especially after the Golkar Party and the National Mandate Party (PAN), widely seen as Jokowi loyalist parties, decided to join the pro-Prabowo alliance.

The alliance, which has been named the Move Forward Indonesia Coalition to assert its pro-Jokowi brand, has recently gained the support of the Democratic Party, the largest opposition party.

Jokowi’s alleged cawe-cawe (interference) in the coalition building process, which he said was aimed at protecting “national interests”, has practically made the PDI-led coalition the smallest electoral alliance, with the United Development Party (PPP) being the only major party supporting Ganjar’s presidential bid.

Kaesang’s political decision to shun the PDI-P will strain their relations further.

“Kaesang’s decision may reflect the mood and discomfort felt within the President’s family with the way the PDI-P has been treating Jokowi and Gibran within the party,” Agung said.

“We can clearly see a growing contrast of how the PDI-P has made Jokowi and his family subordinates while other parties have treated them as royals,” he added

Allowing Kaesang to carve his political path in a rival party, which has been accused of taking away the PDI-P’s nationalist support base, could also mount pressure on the ruling party, Lecturer in Political Science at Paramadina University Ahmad Khoirul Umam said.

His joining PSI “could potentially erode the PDI-P support base in Central Java, especially Solo Raya, where people have more proximity to Jokowi as a figure than to the PDI-P itself,” Umam said.


  - ANN


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