Can Jokowi Swing the Vote in Indonesia’s Presidential Election?

Prabowo Subianto has chosen Gibran Rakabuming Raka, the current mayor of Solo and the son of President Jokowi, as his running mate for the 2024 presidential race. The Constitutional Court relaxed the age limit for vice presidential candidates, and Kaesang Pengarep, Jokowi’s youngest son, was appointed as PSI chairman two days after joining.

This decision reflects President Jokowi’s confidence in his political influence and underscores his ability to act autonomously from political parties and forces. By supporting Prabowo, Jokowi wields independent power, even apart from the largest political party in Indonesia, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle. Prabowo Subianto has leveraged this momentum by emphasizing his closeness to Jokowi, demonstrating his blessing and commitment to the president’s agenda.

Indonesian President Jokowi has acknowledged his intention to interfere in the presidential election, positioning himself as a kingmaker. His job approval ratings have surpassed 80%, a figure typically associated with autocrats. Some argue that these high approval ratings have enabled Jokowi to select his successor. However, high job approval ratings do not necessarily correlate with the power to influence voters. Jokowi’s high approval rating may be due to his administrative skills, which have led to economic success and brought Indonesia back to the forefront of developing nations.

However, his expertise in political horse-trading and ability to prevent political conflicts from spilling into the masses have also played a significant role. Jokowi’s quick learning ability led to his transformation from an outsider to Jakarta’s elite, becoming the most powerful insider. This was evident during the protests against his ally and former governor of Jakarta, Basuki ‘Ahok’ Tjahaja Purnama. Jokowi realized that he could not come to power without the support of Jakarta’s power players.

During Jokowi’s second term, he achieved elite unification with support from seven out of nine existing political parties. This unification enabled Jokowi’s administration to pass laws aligned with his agenda, such as the Omnibus Law, the revision of the criminal code, and the National Capital Law, which established the new national capital, Nusantara. Jokowi utilized the ‘authoritarian infrastructure’ inherited from the previous administration, weakening institutions like the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) and employing police and legal authorities to silence critics. He also silenced opposition voices, particularly from conservative Islamic circles.

The extensive use of the Internet and Electronic Transactions Law has instilled fear among civil society and suppressed the 2019 #ReformasiDikorupsi protests, which weakened the KPK anti-corruption institution. Jokowi continues to campaign, crafting the narrative of his success and winning the internet, elevating him to the most powerful political figure in Indonesia. However, whether this popularity can translate into votes in the 2024 election remains to be seen.

Can Jokowi Swing the Vote in Indonesia's Presidential Election?IndonesiaPrabowo Subianto