On April 11, 2022, demonstrations in various cities, mostly mobilised by students, convened the protest on the extension of the presidential term. In Jakarta, the police responded to the protests with tear gas in front of the House of Representatives (DPR) Building. The mass oversaw that Jokowi did not firmly reject the issue of an extension of the presidential term.
In another remark in Widodo’s speech, he asked to stop the hot ball rolling over the issue of postponing elections and extending the presidential administration – ironically, the issue around the extension of presidential authority was distributed by several people in his inner circle – which during Jokowi’s leadership they gain many privilege in politics and economic-business environment.
At a grassroots level, civil society that strongly denied the presidential authority extension argued that it would betray the Constitution (UUD 1945). The rejection came from Student Executive Bodies (BEM) of universities which dominated by Himpunan Mahasiswa Islam and KAMMI. KAMMI has a close relationship with the Justice and Welfare Party (PKS) – one of two opposition parties in parliament. The rejection is also coming from the Student Political Block (BPP), and many non-government communities that usually speak about social issues and right-based organisations.
The issues around presidential authority escalated after the Indopol Survey Body released the survey that said 72,93 per cent of respondents were satisfied with the performance of President Widodo-Amin in the last two years. Several elites gaslighting that issue and attempted to gain support from mass organisations, such as Association of Indonesian Village Officials (Asosiasi Pemerintah Desa Seluruh Indonesia—APDESI), People’s Coalition (Koalisi Bersama Rakyat—KOBAR), and JokPro. This is such an interesting expression amidst this issue that produced a key question in a current time, how our democracy works? Why did Widodo—with his position—can not stop the debate?
Strong Military Domination and Jokowi Eclecticism
Widodo’s political journey is smoothly undistracted. He has been elected twice as a Mayor of Solo with more than 90% of the vote in 2010. Two years later, he was elected as the governor of Jakarta. Before his duty came to an end, he accelerated the political position to the presidential election in 2014 with Partai Demokrasi Indonesia Perjuangan (PDIP) and gained a victory. He is imaged as a clean politician with strong anti-corruption and human rights programs called Nawa Cita.
But some legacies from the authoritarian regime that are strongly rooted inside the elites after ‘98 are not done yet. Militarism ideology, for instance, became the most vivid expression around Jokowi’s circle. In the sense of politics, Widodo is a weak politician. After he was elected to be a president in the first period, he directly leaned his head on a military shoulder. His guiding light is leaning on the military figure Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan – a retired military general, businessman, and ex-member of Partai Golongan Karya (Golkar). Luhut inherited the militarism culture that was strongly rooted inherited by Suharto’s regime.
Pushing military intervention in a civil sector for him is part of efficiency (IPAC, 2015). Politically he is a kapellmeister of military roles inside the government. No wonder there is a lot of retirement of the National Military Forces (TNI) including the alleged perpetrators of serious human rights violations in the past being a Widodo’s succession then filling up many strategic public officials and some business enterprises.
In addition to cooperating with the military, he also attracted Islamic populists and youth influencers to the palace. His highest achievement is hooking Ma’ruf Amin in his second race of the presidential election in 2019. As we know, Amin is a kapellmeister in Basuki’s case that in the end sent the Jakarta governor to prison for two years. According to Nursahid, 800,000 Indonesian took the street in Jakarta to shake the Basuki’s trial. After the Right-Wings Islamists gain a victory, marked by the imprisonment of Basuki and the victory of Baswedan in Jakarta, Widodo follow the political trend. Showing his eclecticism and slipperiness.
Learning from that, it is not surprising if Widodo takes a floating position on the issue of extending the presidential term – which has no strong statement if the parliament decides to change the constitution he will run again. His statement shows that as a leader he has no imagination to save and expand democracy as well. No doubts, the trend in the ruling class environment shows that eclecticism and rhetoric is needed if elites are willing to still exists in political life in this state (Lane, 2021).
National Election Preparation with Uncertainty
This year will mark the first wave of presidential elections in preparation for 2024. The situation in parliament is complicated. The two opposition parties, Democratic Party (Partai Demokrat) and Social Prosperity Party (PKS), if combined, just have 104 chairs. It does not meet the 20 per cent threshold. They will need re-coalition with the incumbent parties if they want to run in the presidential election if the parliament does not change the constitution.
On the other hand, several incumbent parties already have a potential candidate. Gerindra with Prabowo and PDI-P with Puan Maharani and Ganjar Pranowo. At least in this current time, the parties also opposed Jokowi hanging his power after 2024. But these candidates are not gaining higher than 20 per cent in the polls. Add uncertainty in an electoral political life.
The only certainty around the debate of national election can only be seen in the fact that none of the nine parties in parliament have discussed the program and problem resolving in community life. Including the human right violation that arose in the last two years, and corruption – which marked as a part of the threat to democracy in the Reformasi era. Predictably, none of them will be debating something more substantial until the certainty of electability for presidential election in 2024 is here. Next two years will be full of manoeuvre among parties that will also show eclecticism with minimum ideology and political program.
So, the problem of political life in Indonesia lies in two things: the strong domination of military elite and civil politicians with no ideological programs. These are the underlying problems of democracy for the rakyat (people). Democracy only lives for the elite as long as they can expand his chances in electoral battles.
Will another political actor be born in times of uncertainty in democratic life? The hope is only seen in civil society with the spontaneous mass action trend. The imagination to build the political vehicle to compete with the oligarch parties with a clear program of expanding democratic life still spinning in a small group because of the authoritarian legacy.
IPAC. (2015). “The Current Status of the Papuan Pro-Independence Movement”. IPAC Report No. 21.
Lane, M. (2021). “Politicians’ Billboard War Underscores Absence of Policy Contestation”. Fulcrum.sg. 3 September 2021. https://fulcrum.sg/politicians-billboard-war-underscores-absence-of-policy-contestation/
Nursahid, A. “Nationalism and Islamic Populism in Indonesia”. Jakarta: PUSAD. https://www.paramadina-pusad.or.id/nationalism-and-islamic-populism-in-indonesia/
Farhan Syahreza is a Law student at Universitas Islam Indonesia. He can be found in Instagram with the username @syrz.5