Constitutional conspiracy

Kompas Newspaper – October 18, 2023

Although Indonesian's are used to the unethical and opportunistic behaviour of their corrupt and nepotistic politicians, many were still taken aback by President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's blatant use of family connections to further his political ambitions.

Amid widespread opposition to dynastic politics, the Constitutional Court (MK) ruled on October 16 that elected officials, regardless of their age, can run as presidential candidates.

This cleared the way for Widodo's eldest son Gibran Rakabuming Raka to become presumptive presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto's running mate in the 2024 presidential elections.

The outcome however, was probably a foregone conclusion, given that the Constitutional Court's chief justice, Anwar Usman, is married to Widodo's sister and Rakabuming Raka's uncle.

Usman had even made his personal views on the issue known beforehand during a public lecture in Central Java last month when he said people should look to a precedent set by the Prophet Muhammad in appointing a 16-year-old as his military commander.

And over the past few weeks, all of the political parties in President Widodo's ruling coalition appeared to have come to an agreement that Rakabuming Raka would be a vice presidential candidate that they could rally behind.

And for Greater Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) Chairperson and Defense Minister Prabowo, Rakabuming Raka represents a golden ticket to win next year's election by ensuring the backing of Widodo and his network of diehard supporters.

Last week, Widodo's vast volunteer network known as Projo also endorsed Prabowo for February's election.

While it is too early to tell if Widodo's gambit will pay off, the consequences for Indonesia's electoral democracy and the next government could be far reaching.

The Constitutional Court is the body that will hear and rule on any electoral disputes in February. With public confidence in its integrity at an all time low, any rulings it makes will also be suspect.

And even if things go as planned for Widodo, and he is able to maintain his power and influence through his son, an electoral win for Prabowo will always be tainted with questions about the legitimacy of the elections themselves.