Jakarta – A number of observers believe that the intellectual actors behind the discourse on postponing the 2024 legislative and presidential elections or for President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo to serve a third term in office are currently trying to change public opinion by garnering mass support from certain groups, not just through political elite channels.
This is said to be related to a change in the "political vehicle" being used to articulate support for the idea.
Previously, the discourse was touted by political party leaders such as National Awakening Party (PKB) General Chairperson Muhaimin Iskandar, who was then supported by National Mandate Party (PAN) General Chairperson Zulkifli Hasan and indications of support from the Golkar Party.
Aside from being opposed by civil society and democratic activists, the discourse is known to be opposed by the general public.
An Indonesia Polling Station (IPS) survey on March 8-18, which was conducted in 34 provinces and involved 1,220 respondents, revealed that 74.6 percent of the public reject postponing the 2024 elections or extending President Widodo's term in office.
The results of a survey by Charta Politika between January 27 and February 9 in East Java, West Java and Lampung (South Sumatra) showed that 70.6 percent of the public oppose the idea.
Similarly, a Kompas Research and Development poll in 34 provinces on March 7-12 revealed that 62.3 percent of respondents agree with the elections being held on February 14, 2024.
In the wake of this chorus of opposition, the discourse on Widodo serving a third term was revived following a national meeting of village heads in Jakarta on Tuesday March 29. The event was chaired by the Surtawijaya led camp of the Indonesian Association of Villages (APDESI).
Several days later, support also came from a group claiming to represent ulama (Islamic leaders) in Banten province. Banten Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin) Chairperson Banten Mulyadi Jayabaya was entrusted with a message from the Banten ulama for Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan.
He claimed that the ulama had prayed that Widodo could continue his leadership until 2027.
"The message from the kiai [Islamic teachers], the ulama, was please convey to Pak [Mr] Jokowi, convey to Jokowi, [we] want his [term in office] to be extended for three more years, Pak, in order to resolve the economy", said Jayabaya at an event attended by Pandjaitan in Lebak regency on Thursday March 31.
Changing public opinion
Padjadjaran University political observer Kunto Adi Wibowo says that the initiator or intellectual actor behind this discourse actually wants the "ball" to do the rounds in the House of Representatives (DPR) and the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR).
This however is not easy because the idea has been rejected by most of the political parties. Because of this therefore, social organisations are being mobilised "to change public opinion" to give the impression that postponing the elections or Widodo serving a third term is supported by the public.
"So these social organisations or social groups are being used to strengthen the claim that the ordinary people support a third term [for Widodo] or an election postponement or whatever it is", said Wibowo when contacted by CNN Indonesia on Thursday evening.
Wibowo predicts that in the future there will be more and more declarations supporting an election postponement or third term for Widodo and different events will be taken advantage of to articulate this discourse.
Wibowo is of the view that there is a possibility that the political parties which currently reject the idea will later switch sides and support it if the ball of support from social groups becomes ever bigger.
"Particularly if reports in the media are massive, in social media it's also massive, like it or not (the political parties) will switch sides", he said.
Garnering mass support
National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN) political observer Wasisto Raharjo Jati is of a similar view.
He thinks that these mass mobilisations are an effort to shift the locus so that the postponement of the elections is not just seen as an agenda of the elite, but also a popular agenda.
If mass support for a postponement continues to escalate, he said, then this strategy of mass mobilisation could psychologically influence the political parties which reject an election postponement.
"This potential would be made possible if the mass [support] for postponing the elections is then also able to influence voting groups from the political parties which oppose postponing the elections", said Jati.
Despite this, Jati is of the view that garnering mass support for a postponement still does not have the narrative of strong moral support that it needs to be able to anesthetise the broader public.
"Actually it almost resembles the pattern of the 212 movement, that movement only became big because there was the moral spirit of 'religious blasphemy', while the pro (election postponement) groups don't yet have this narrative", he said, referring to the 2016 Defend Islam protests against former Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama.
Syarif Hidayatullah Islamic State University (UIN) political observer Adi Prayitno believes that there is a systematic operation behind the emergence of support for Widodo serving a third term. This movement, according to Prayitno, had disappeared some time ago until recently when it reemerged in a big way.
According to Prayitno, President Widodo must take a firm public position on the issue if he truly rejects the discourse.
"The public knows who the actor is who is mobilising this movement. There's no need to mention the brand, it's already a public secret. If he rejects a third term, Jokowi must take a hard line, get angry with those who are continuing to out manoeuvre him", said Prayitno.
He admits to feeling afraid at seeing rogue village officials supporting Widodo for a third term. The idea, he said, is clearly unconstitutional. Prayitno says that village officials should focus on village development, remaining neutral, not flirting with political matters.
Prayitno says however that there is no need to be too concerned about this movement because many more people oppose the idea of postponing the elections.
"This is just an exhibition of support. Yet no matter who supports this, it's only a fraction and doesn’t have any meaning compared with those who reject it. Just treat those who support the postponement as humorous entertainment in the midst of the pandemic", he said. (yoa/isn)
[Translated by James Balowski. Sub-headings added during translation. The original title of the article was "Upaya Ubah Opini Publik di Balik Mobilisasi Massa Jokowi 3 Periode".]