Thousands of students protest rumored election delay, extension of presidential term

Dandy Koswaraputra
2022.04.11
Jakarta
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Thousands of students protest rumored election delay, extension of presidential term Thousands of university students hold a protest against the speculated extension of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s presidential term, in front of Indonesia’s House of Representative (DPR) building in Jakarta, April 11, 2022.
[BenarNews]

Thousands of students staged protests across Indonesia on Monday, a day after President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo denied speculation that his party plans to delay elections and extend his presidency beyond the constitutionally mandated two terms.

In Jakarta, some of the nearly 1,000 students reportedly threw rocks at security personnel while dispersing, prompting riot police to fire tear gas and water cannons into the crowd, according to eyewitnesses and images seen on television. Students tried to march to the presidential palace, to also protest against rising prices, but barricades stopped them.

“We reject [a] third presidential term [for Jokowi],” read a banner unfurled by the protesters. “Lower the prices of cooking oil,” said another.

Similar rallies were held in several other cities in the sprawling archipelago, including in Bandung, Padang and Kendari.

Protesters urged Jokowi, who was reelected for a second term in 2019, not to postpone the elections and 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.

Protesters also urged the government to stabilize the prices of basic necessities and ensure their availability, amid a public outcry about the soaring prices of cooking oil.

‘Hollow political interests’

In a series of tweets on Sunday, Jokowi sought to reassure the public that he was not seeking constitutional amendments to prolong his presidential term, or postpone elections, saying the polls would take place on Feb. 14, 2024 as planned.

“Ahead of the democratic event, there is always an uptick in political temperatures and that’s normal. But the people should not be provoked by hollow political interests,” he wrote on Twitter.  

Comments made in January by Investment Minister Bahlil Lahadalia kicked off speculation that postponing the polls might be on the cards.

Bahlil said that businesses wanted the presidential election to be delayed to allow the country to recover from an economic crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. He said that business players feared elections would create instability.

A month later, the country’s chief economics minister, Airlangga Hartarto, said farmers wanted Jokowi to serve a third term. 

And last month, Luhut Pandjaitan, Jokowi’s most trusted aide and the minister for maritime and investment affairs, said that social media “big data” showed that more than 110 million Indonesians wanted Jokowi’s term to be extended.

He, however, declined when asked to reveal the data to the public, saying it was confidential.

“I’m asking you, what makes you think that Jokowi should step down [after the second term]?” Luhut said, after saying that the elections should be postponed.

“If I look at the grassroots level, the people are asking that question.”

Last year, Jokowi said he was 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 at that time.

Violence

The protests in Jakarta took another violent turn when a group of protesters outside the parliament building set on a known ardent supporter of Jokowi and stripped him naked before police whisked him away from the angry crowd, eyewitnesses said and television footage showed.

The Jokowi supporter, Ade Armando, a communications lecturer at the University of Indonesia, was bruised and bleeding from his face, video footage circulating online showed.  

Ade had criticized students who took part in street rallies against Jokowi’s policies before, accusing them of being used by the president’s political opponents. 

Gen. Fadil Imran, the chief inspector for Jakarta police, said investigators had identified the alleged attackers.

“If they don’t turn themselves in, we will arrest them,” Fadil was quoted as saying by the state news agency Antara.

“Tomorrow maybe we will … announce the identity of the perpetrators.”

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