Editorial: Jokowi for Life?

Editorial Omong-Omong

4 min read

Ruling elites and groups who have been greatly benefitting or able to take advantage from Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s naivety in the last 8 years have launched series of systematic campaigns to allow him to govern for another term, putting Indonesia at risk of turning back to an authoritarian state comparable to Suharto’s New Order Era.

But how? Isn’t it very clear in the Constitution that each president can only govern for two terms? Will it be too much of a task to amend the Constitution? Will there be massive demonstrations against such an undemocratic and unprecedented act since the removal of Soeharto in 1998?

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Of course it will not be easy, but it can be done by systematically showing to the world that it is the people of Indonesia themselves who want Jokowi to stay in power.

The first step is capitalization of surveys by institutions seen as credible and independent. It was not a coincidence that the discourse to extend the term intensified after Kompas’ R & D and other surveyors in the end of 2021 and early 2022 produced surveys all claiming that Jokowi’s popularity were more than 70 percent despite widespread complains about layoffs due to pandemic, spike of commodity prices, frequent arrests of critics and massive demonstration against KPK Law, Omnibus Law, ITE Law.

While the surveyors claim that the surveys were randomly done, we can always question who were the participants of the surveys? It is unbelievable that Jokowi can have more than 70 percent of popularity while he only gathered 55 percent when he claimed the presidency in 2019 for the second time. It can be believable if we can really feel the progress. But by any parameters, Indonesia is not getting better now compared to three years or even eight years ago, so it is very logical and normal that Jokowi’s popularity dips as everything is getting worse because of the pandemic and other mismanagement.

Surveyors, like SMRC and Indikator Politik Indonesia, quickly followed the popularity surveys with a survey on whether he gets supports to run for the third term. While the surveys really show that most people were rejecting the idea, several news outlets were still reporting that supports for Jokowi to continue ruling have been increased.

So, the media has also been involved in making the idea stay alive.

Using the results of the surveys claiming that people still want Jokowi to be their president and other laughable reasons such as pandemic and even Russian invasion to Ukraine, Jokowi’s coalition partners and the media are intensifying floating the idea of extending Jokowi administration by delaying the 2014 elections, and even give him the opportunity to govern for the third time.

Muhaimin Iskandar, chairman of the National Awakening Party (PKB), openly suggested that the 2024 elections should be delayed one or two years to keep the economic progress and to avoid chaotic situation because of elections which according to him would ruin the economy.

Muhaimin is the one who has benefitted the most by the rise of Jokowi as he managed to put Ma’ruf Amin as vice president and several PKB’s cadres as ministers. He has every interest of keeping Jokowi in power as long as possible.

Zulkifli Hasan, chairman of the National Mandate Party (PAN), then came up with a reason of Russian attack against Ukraine to delay the elections and extend the term of Jokowi presidency. Zulkifli is also one of many Jokowi’s supporters who gained many benefits, including a shield from criminal investigation in forest transformation scandal when he was a forestry minister. But what is the relations between Russia-Ukraine conflict with Indonesia’s presidential succession?

Then, another Jokowi’s coalition party, NasDem Party, proposed to amend the Constitution to allow Jokowi to run for his third term, arguing that if the Constitution has been amended then Jokowi will be constitutionally reelected for the third time. It’s not a secret that Nasdem and its chairman, media mogul Surya Paloh, have gained various benefits for supporting Jokowi in 2014 and 2019.

One of Jokowi’s biggest coalition members, Golkar Party, who also gained a lot with the rise of Jokowi, has also indicates that they would support amendment of the Constitution if Jokowi wanted to rerun for the third time.

Make no mistake, by controlling more than 80 percent of seats of the House of Representatives, Jokowi could amend the Constitution to allow him stay in power as long as he likes.

However, there are one or two problems that still block Jokowi’s way to keep on governing, preventing him to openly agree with the idea.

Firstly, as indicated by the surveys, majority of people are still rejecting the amendment of the Constitution to extend the presidency beyond two terms.

Secondly, and most importantly, his own party, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), has flatly rejected the suggestion, with its chairwoman, Megawati Soekarnoputri, the country’s most influential politician, never giving comment on the issue, indicating that she will not agree with such an idea.

The PDI-P, the country’s largest party, has its own agenda. It wants Puan Maharani to become president one way or another.

As long as PDI-P and Megawati continue rejecting amending the Constitution, keeping Jokowi in power is unrealistic. That’s why, Jokowi himself – at least publicly – continue to reject suggestion for him to rerun for the third term. Now, it’s a matter of what Jokowi’s supporters can offer Megawati to change her position, or how they can convince that it is the best interest of the party and Puan to keep Jokowi in power by offering her Jokowi’s vice presidency in 2024, and presidency in 2029.

However, like various examples within history, there is no guarantee that giving Jokowi his third term will not end up in giving him his fourth term or fifth term or even making him president for life, as in the case of Soeharto.

The general views about Soeharto were fairly positive in the first two terms of his presidency. But once he could totally consolidate his power, the rest was history.

Five or 10 years ago, it was crazy to even discuss the possibility of changing the Constitution to give way for a president to govern beyond two terms. But here we are now. It’s as real as changing a lightbulb for our room when it’s dead.

Jokowi, Megawati and Indonesia don’t want to go down that way, and regress the country back to its darkest period. It’s a betrayal of hard-fought people’s efforts in bringing down and free themselves from the cruel totalitarian regime. Megawati, for one, know first-hand how miserable it was as she was one of the biggest victims during such an authoritarian regime. It’s a point of no return for Indonesia, and once we go down that way, it will take massive blood and lives to get back. So, it’s never too early to send warning against such a grave threat to Indonesia.

Editorial Omong-Omong

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