Indonesian president’s son named a vice presidential candidate

Ahmad Syamsudin, Tria Dianti and Arie Firdaus
Indonesian president’s son named a vice presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto, Indonesia's defense minister, announces that his political coalition has chosen President Joko Widodo's eldest son, Gibran Rakabuming Raka, as his running mate in the presidential race, outside his Jakarta residence, Oct. 22, 2023.
Eko Siswono Toyudho/BenarNews

The frontrunner in Indonesia’s presidential race, Prabowo Subianto, announced on Sunday that the eldest son of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo would be his vice-presidential candidate.

Prabowo said the leaders of a political alliance that supports his bid for the presidency had agreed to nominate Gibran Rakabuming Raka, the 36-year-old mayor of Solo, making them the third ticket in a three-way race set to be decided in polling on Feb. 14.

“We have deliberated to reach a final consensus and agreed to nominate Prabowo Subianto as the presidential candidate of the Coalition for a Progressive Indonesia and Gibran Rakabuming Raka as the vice-presidential candidate,” Prabowo said, reading a statement from his political coalition to journalists waiting outside his Jakarta residence.

Prabowo said he and Gibran, who did not attend the announcement, would register their candidacy with the election commission on Wednesday.

On Saturday, Gibran thanked Golkar, the biggest party in the alliance backing Prabowo, for putting forward his name for vice president.

“I welcome the result of Golkar's national meeting. I will coordinate and follow up with Mr. Prabowo,” he told journalists outside the gathering.

Former Jakarta Gov. Anies Baswedan, and Ganjar Pranowo, the former governor of Central Java, registered as presidential candidates on Oct. 19, together with their respective running mates, deputy parliament speaker Muhaimin Iskandar and security minister Mohammad Mahfud MD.

Prabowo, a former special forces commander, lost presidential elections to Jokowi in 2014 and 2019, before being named defense minister. He has been the frontrunner for much of the campaign season this time around and currently holds a narrow lead over Ganjar.

Gibran Rakabuming Raka, the mayor of Solo, speaks to reporters outside the local legislature in the Central Java city, Oct. 19, 2023. [Dika/AFP]

Father's blessing

Gibran’s elevation to vice presidential candidate appeared to signal the outgoing president’s unspoken endorsement of his onetime rival and the potential transformation of his legacy into a dynasty. 

Jokowi said on Sunday that he had given his blessing to Gibran’s candidacy. 

“As parents we can only support and give blessing,” he told reporters. “It’s his decision because he’s an adult and we should not interfere in our children’s decisions.” 

Analysts, however, differ in their assessment of Gibran’s impact on the race.

“Context is important in Indonesia, to win or not. His electability surveys have been high, but that’s for a certain period. It could be different during the election,” Siti Zuhro of the National Innovation Research Agency (BRIN) told BenarNews.

But Ujang Komarudin, a political analyst from Al Azhar Indonesia University, said that Prabowo’s chances have widened with Gibran on the ticket, because it signals that he has Jokowi’s backing.

“The potential for winning is quite high because Jokowi supports him,” Ujang said.

‘Demographic bonus’

Once described as wary of the limelight and focused on developing a chain of stores selling martabak, a kind of pancake, Gibran was elected mayor of Solo in 2020 – the same role his father held before launching into national politics.

A week ago, electoral law decreed that candidates for the two highest offices had to be 40 years of age or older, but on Oct. 17, Indonesia’s Constitutional Court extended the right to people of any age who have served as lawmakers or regional heads at the provincial or city level.

The petition to lower the minimum age was brought by a university student said to be inspired by Gibran, and decided by Chief Judge Anwar Usman, who is married to Jokowi’s sister. 

Jokowi has not openly endorsed any of the candidates. Just prior to the Constitutional Court ruling, a large and influential network of Jokowi supporters, “ProJo,” endorsed Prabowo as his successor.

On Saturday, Golkar – the party with the largest number of parliamentary seats in Prabowo’s political coalition – proposed Gibran as his running mate at a nationwide meeting of the political grouping.

“We had a long, heated meeting, but finally we reached consensus to propose and support Gibran Rakabuming Raka be paired with Prabowo Subianto as a vice presidential candidate,” Golkar party chief Airlangga Hartarto said in a speech to the gathering.

Gibran represents millennial and Gen Z Indonesians who number 120 million people, or 53 percent of the electorate, who are “educated, information-literate and creative,” Airlangga said.

“It is hoped that Mas [Brother] Gibran can take advantage of this productive demographic bonus,” he added.

Prabowo, for his part, cited figures from the early days of Indonesia’s nationhood who served at a young age, including 36-year-old Prime Minister Sutan Syahir and General Sudirman, who became leader of Indonesia’s armed forces at the age of 29.

“It’s not a matter of being young or old, but a sincere soul,” he said.


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