President Joko Widodo's sons, Gibran Rakabuming Raka and Kaesang Pangarep, have found themselves leading the polls for dad's old post in Solo, Central Java. (Antara Photo/Fikri Yusuf)

Last Temptation of Jokowi: Grooming a Political Dynasty


JULY 31, 2019

Jakarta. President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's sons, Gibran Rakabuming Raka and Kaesang Pangarep, have found themselves leading in opinion polls to be nominated as the mayor of Solo in Central Java – a post that launched their father's political career. 

Analysts say if Gibran and Kaesang jump on the opportunity to run for mayor next year, they will only perpetuate the often derided traditions of dynasty politics and nepotism in Indonesia. 

"Jokowi should keep his children out [of politics] and not let them run for mayor," Donal Fariz, a political corruption expert at non-profit watchdog Indonesian Corruption Watch, said on Tuesday.

"The president has been a good [political] role model so far. He has distanced his family from politics by not allowing his children to get themselves involved in state projects," Donal said. 

"Jokowi doesn't have the reputation for building a political dynasty. He's different from many other members of Indonesia's political elite, who have the tendency to build their own political dynasties [when they are in power]," he said.

The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle's (PDI-P) matriarch Megawati Soekarnoputri – the president's main political backer – is the daughter of Indonesia's first president Soekarno. Her daughter Puan Maharani now sits as a minister in Jokowi's cabinet. 

Prabowo Subianto, the founder of the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) and Jokowi's rival in the past two elections, has a niece and nephew in politics; while former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has never hidden his ambitions to launch his eldest son, Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, as Indonesia's future president.  

The province of Banten has in one way or another ruled by the family of Ratu Atut Chosiah, who placed his brothers, sons and in-laws in its bureaucracy. Ratu Atut was found guilty last year for corruption. Her stepbrother and stepsister went to jail for separate corruption cases. Ratu Atut's eldest son, Andika Hazrumy, is now Banten's deputy governor until 2021.

Teguh Yuwono, a political commentator from Diponegoro University, said political dynasties are unavoidable, even in a democracy.  

"If they are loved by the people and have the knack for politics, why not run [for public positions]? It is allowed by the law," Teguh said. 

He pointed to examples in the United States, one of the oldest functioning democracies in the world. 

"The children of President [George H.W.] Bush, George Walker Bush and Jeb Bush became governors. Later, George W. Bush became president," he said.

All the President's Sons

Slamet Riyadi University's public policy division published the results of a survey last week that listed Gibran and Kaesang in the top three most-popular would-be candidates for the Solo mayor post. 

Older brother Gibran said he appreciated Solo residents' high regard for him and his brother, but did not indicate he would run for the position.

"I thank all the Solo residents for their positive opinion [of us]," he told reporters on Monday. 

"The KPU [General Elections Commission] has not started registering [the candidates]. Let's just wait what happens," Gibran said.  

Gibran and Kaesang have so far followed in their father's footsteps to become successful entrepreneurs.

But instead of continuing their father's furniture business, they have been building their own. 

Gibran has built a successful food franchise selling modernized versions of the martabak, or sweet pancakes. 

Kaesang has also built a franchise selling another popular traditional snack, fried banana. 

The two have millions of followers on social media, where their comedic spin on political attacks targeted at their father often goes viral. 

The PDI-P has indicated they will be open to Gibran's or Kaesang's nomination. 

But rival Gerindra is not so keen. 

"If a party wants to nominate [Jokowi's sons], please go ahead. It is within their rights. Solo is a PDI-P stronghold. We won't get involved, we have our own candidates," Sriyanto Saputro, the deputy chairman of Gerindra's Central Java board, said.  

Jokowi Standing Back

Jokowi said he will let Gibran and Kaesang decide for themselves if they want to run for mayor in his hometown. 

"They can do whatever they want; I am a democratic man. But [they must remember] the most important thing when you hold a public post, they have to be responsible," he told reporters on Sunday. 

Other analysts say Gibran's or Kaesang's nomination would only hurt Jokowi's political standing. 

"If they were going to do it, it would be better to wait until Jokowi is no longer president," Triyono Lukmantoro, an expert in political communication at Diponegoro University in Semarang, said on Monday. 

"If they get elected, wouldn't Jokowi's reputation weigh heavily on them? Can they match their father's extraordinary success as mayor and president?" Triyono said. 

"If the sons cannot cope with those expectations, it's their father who will suffer," he said.