Indonesian candidates urge president to keep state institutions from meddling in election

Pizaro Gozali Idrus
Indonesian candidates urge president to keep state institutions from meddling in election Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo (second from left) hosts lunch for the three presidential candidates in the 2024 election, Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto (second from right), former Jakarta Gov. Anies Baswedan (right), and former Central Java Gov. Ganjar Pranowo (left), at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta, Oct. 30, 2023.
[Courtesy President Joko Widodo via Facebook]

Two of Indonesia’s presidential hopefuls on Monday urged President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to keep state institutions from meddling in the 2024 election, amid criticism he is trying to cling to power after he leaves office.

Jokowi met the three presidential candidates in the wake of a controversial Constitutional Court ruling that paved the way for his eldest son to run for the vice presidency in the Feb. 14, 2024 polls.

Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto, former Jakarta Gov. Anies Baswedan and former Central Java Gov. Ganjar Pranowo are in the race to replace Jokowi, who is barred by term limits from seeking a third run.

“We relayed to him the message from our friends who love the president that he should maintain neutrality and make it clear to the state apparatuses that they must maintain neutrality in the election,” opposition candidate Anies told a news conference after the meeting at the presidential palace in Jakarta.

“He responded positively and well, so our discussion was smooth.” 

Ganjar, the candidate from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), which is Jokowi’s estranged party, said he relayed a similar message. 

“He is a good person and God willing he will support a good democratic system,” he said. “Our duty is to safeguard a peaceful election, make sure the state apparatuses are impartial, and make sure the election runs fairly.”

Prabowo, who lost to Jokowi in the 2014 and 2019 elections but has served as the defense chief in Jokowi’s final term, has picked one of the president’s sons, Gibran Rakabuming Raka, as his running mate. 

Prabowo was able to pick Gibran, the 36-year-old mayor of Solo in Central Java, after the Constitutional Court ruled on Oct. 16 that candidates under the age of 40 could run for president or vice president, provided they had experience as elected regional leaders. 

The ruling, which amended an electoral law provision that had set the age limit of 40 without exceptions, was seen by many as made to favor Gibran. 

Additionally, the Constitutional Court’s chief justice is married to Jokowi’s sister, further raising eyebrows about the judiciary’s impartiality.

‘Constitutional Court is compromised’ 

Since the court’s ruling, critics have accused Jokowi of nepotism and conflict of interest, and questioned its independence and integrity. 

Meanwhile on Monday, two groups of lawyers said that the court’s decision should be declared invalid.

“The Constitutional Court is compromised and is akin to a family-run court because its nine judges are influenced by the actions of [Chief] Judge Anwar Usman, who has a conflict of interest in ruling on cases,” Petrus Selestinus, a spokesman for the groups, said in a statement.

He also denounced a spokesman for Prabowo’s party for cautioning the chairman of the court’s ethics council from interfering with the court’s ruling.

“He is trying to pressure the ethics council to stop looking into the reports of Judge Anwar Usman’s ethical violations as a constitutional judge,” Petrus said.

A spokesperson for Prabowo’s Gerindra party had said the court’s ruling was final and binding, and any decision by the ethics panel should not cause a public uproar.

The ethics council, a body within the constitutional court, held its first meeting last week to examine public complaints of ethical violations by the judges related to the age-limit decision.

The council has until Nov. 24 to make a decision.

‘Legal manipulation’

Ganjar and Anies were concerned about the possibility of government interference in the election, said Airlangga Pribadi, an analyst at Airlangga University in Surabaya. 

“If the government is willing to interfere in the judicial process, it is also likely to interfere in other aspects of the election,” Airlangga told BenarNews. “This could include the use of state resources to support the government’s preferred candidate.”

Ganjar urged Jokowi to be neutral because the president is seen as favoring Prabowo and Gibran, said Ujang Komaruddin, a political analyst at Al Azhar University Indonesia.

“Anies and Ganjar feel the need to hammer it home to Jokowi,” Ujang told BenarNews.

He added that he believed Jokowi wanted to leave a legacy of fair and peaceful elections amid criticism that he was biased.

“[Jokowi] has endured relentless attacks and criticism that he is not neutral,” Ujang said.

Earlier on Monday, Jokowi told several heads of provinces and cities to be neutral in the election and to support the election organizers.

“I urge you to support the tasks of the General Election Commission and the Election Supervisory Agency, but do not interfere,” he told the regional heads who had gathered at the presidential palace. 

“I urge you not to take sides.” Jokowi added.

Meanwhile, Jokowi’s party, PDI-P, said Monday that the vice-presidential nomination of the president’s son, Gibran, was “a political disobedience to the constitution and the people, aided by legal manipulation.” 

Hasto Kristiyanto, PDI-P’s secretary general, said in the statement that many of the party’s supporters could not believe that Jokowi had abandoned them.

“We loved and gave so much privilege to President Jokowi and his family, but we were left behind because he had other demands that could potentially undermine institutions and violate the constitution,” he said. 

“We prayed that it would not happen, but it did.”

Hasto hinted that some political party leaders in the coalition that backs Prabowo were under duress to endorse Gibran’s nomination. Prabowo’s candidacy is backed by several political parties, including the second and third largest parties in the parliament, as well as smaller groupings. 

“I received confessions from several leaders of political parties who felt they were threatened,” Hasto alleged.

“Some said they only had days to live; others said they faced immense pressure,” he further alleged.

Tria Dianti in Jakarta contributed to this report.


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