Indonesia Ends Speculation on Jokowi Term Extension, Sets 2024 Polls Date

Tria Dianti
2022.01.25
Jakarta
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Indonesia Ends Speculation on Jokowi Term Extension, Sets 2024 Polls Date
[AFP]

Indonesians will go to the polls in February 2024 to select the country’s next leader, the election commission announced, ending speculation that President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo might try to extend his second and constitutionally mandated final term.

The decision was made late Monday at a meeting involving Home Affairs Minister Tito Karnavian, the General Election Commission and members of the House of Representatives.

“Voting is scheduled for Wednesday, February 14, 2024,” Election Commission chief Ilham Saputra said late Monday.

Officials also agreed that elections for regency chiefs, mayors and provincial governors would be held simultaneously nationwide on Nov. 27, 2024.

Issues related to campaign schedules and electoral stages will be deliberated on this coming June, officials said.

Tito, the home minister, had proposed a shorter campaign period of three months to curb political polarization, but the Election Commission suggested that campaigning should last four months, beginning Oct. 14, 2023.

“Three months is enough. The public should not be divided for too long and we think that with communication technology, media, and social media, we think this is enough time,” Tito said.

A third term for Jokowi?

The announcement of a date for the next presidential polls occurred amid speculation that the government planned to postpone a general election to allow Jokowi, who was reelected in 2019, to extend his five-year term. An amendment to the constitution would be required to change term limits, which were enacted through a constitutional amendment in 1999.

Jokowi has said he is not interested in staying in office for much longer.

“I can assure you, I have no intention of becoming president for three terms,” he said last year.

Speculation remained rife, however, after Investment Minister Bahlil Lahadalia said that businesses wanted the presidential election to be postponed to allow the country to recover from an economic crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Earlier this month, Bahlil said that business players feared elections would create instability.

“If there’s a way for the [election] process to be postponed, that would be much better,” Bahlil had said.

“Why? Because they [businesses] are still black and blue from the health crisis and are only starting to recover, and suddenly they have to deal with the political mess.” 

Separately, Amien Rais, a critic of Jokowi and former speaker of the People’s Consultative Assembly, had fueled speculation by saying the ruling coalition would seek to amend the constitution to allow Jokowi to run for a third term.

Central Java Gov. Gandjar Pranowo, Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto and Jakarta Gov. Anies Baswedan are among potential contenders for the next presidential election, according to recent privately-conducted opinion polls.

Prabowo’s party has commented that he will run, but the other contenders have not said so publicly. Prabowo, the defense minister in the current government, lost against Jokowi in the last two presidential contests.

‘A tradition’

It’s business people who want Jokowi to stay in power, according to Wasisto Raharjo Jati, a political researcher at the National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN).

“It’s a tradition for businesses to donate funds to political campaigns and the government returns the favor with policies,” he said.

“We don’t know when this pandemic will end, so businessmen dread the 2024 elections because they want to spend as little as possible,” he said.

Wasisto said talk of extending Jokowi’s term amounted to a democratic setback, after a reform movement spearheaded by students in 1998 helped topple autocratic President Suharto after 32 years in power.

“When a government is allowed to be in power for too long, it tends to be corrupt and authoritarian,” he said.

Parliamentary Speaker Puan Maharani, meanwhile, expressed hope that the 2024 election would improve democracy in Indonesia.

“I invite the public to actively participate by monitoring the 2024 election process,” she said in a statement.

“That way, we hope that the election process will be transparent and accommodate people’s voices.”

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