Family ties to the fore as Jokowi’s son named on presidential ticket

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Singapore/Jakarta: The eldest son of Indonesian leader Joko Widodo has been named as the running mate of presidential election frontrunner Prabowo Subianto, intensifying the focus on a family dynasty emerging in the world’s third-largest democracy.

Gibran Rakabuming Raka, 36, became a vice presidential candidate just a week after a controversial court decision opened a loophole for him to run, amending a rule that had previously made individuals under the age of 40 ineligible for the top two offices in the country.

Vice-presidential candidate Gibran Rakabuming Raka pictured last week in Solo.Credit: AP

The pairing of the youthful mayor of Solo in Central Java with former special forces commander Subianto has confirmed an upending political alliance less than four months out from the election.

It was less than six months ago that Widodo, known as Jokowi, was on stage as the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) unveiled then Central Java governor Ganjar Pranowo as its presidential nominee for 2024.

The party, whose matriarch is Megawati Sukarnoputri, the daughter of Indonesia’s first president, Sukarno, had backed Widodo through his rise from furniture salesman to the presidency as well as endorsing Gibran’s own ascent to elected office. It also has the largest representation in Widodo’s multiparty ruling coalition in parliament.

From left, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, his wife Iriana, their son Gibran Rakabuming Raka and his bride Selvi Ananda, with Selvi’s father Didit Suprijadi and mother Sri Partini in 2015.Credit: Getty

But the president’s son will now contest the election in opposition to PDI-P, of which he is still a member, joining forces with the man his father defeated in 2014 and 2019.

Widodo, whose second and final five-year term finishes next October, said: “I support everybody for the goodness of this country”.

“The duty of parents is just praying because [the children] are already grown up. Don’t interfere with the affairs that our children have already made decisions on. Parents just pray and bless,” he said.

However, analysts say Widodo will undoubtedly throw his considerable influence behind his son.

The 62-year-old president is still hugely popular after nearly a decade in office and his association with the ticket could be a major boon for his former arch-rival Subianto, who has served as his defence minister since 2019.

Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo and his son Gibran Rakabuming Raka greet supporters in 2019.Credit: AP

“Behind the scenes, obviously he supports Gibran,” said Arya Fernandez, a political researcher from the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Jakarta.

“But it is impossible for the president to say he supports him. He is the head of state.

“There is big potential that he will have a role [in the election] using his own way. I don’t know how. Jokowi realises [Gibran] will face PDI-P. What is clear is the incumbent will have a role in this election process.”

Fernandez said Gibran’s case was similar to the emergence of Sara Duterte in the Philippines, a country where family ties have dominated the political arena.

The mayor of her home town, Davao City, she was elected vice- president last year as her father Rodrigo Duterte was ending his six-year presidency, linking up successfully with Ferdinand Marcos jnr, who assumed control in Manila, himself following in the footsteps of his dictator father and namesake.

The extent to which Indonesian voters baulk at the suggestion that Widodo is attempting to build his own dynasty to maintain clout and secure his legacy may help decide the outcome when they go to the polls in February.

Subianto, 72, at least is free to formally enter what will be a three-way race after the Constitutional Court on Monday rejected a series of judicial reviews proposing to impose an upper age limit of 70 for presidential candidates.

It was the same court, presided over by Widodo’s brother-in-law, that last week cleared the way for Gibran to challenge for the vice-presidency, approving an application to permit candidates under the age of 40 if they have already been elected to regional or national office.

Sana Jaffrey, a research fellow at the Australian National University’s Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, said on X, formerly Twitter: “The next question on everyone’s mind: if a president can go this far to secure a nomination for his son, how far will he go do secure a victory?”

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