A Family Affair
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Kaesang Pangarep, a 28-year-old YouTube influencer and entrepreneur who is also the youngest son of Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, recently became the head of the youth-oriented political organization, the Indonesian Solidarity Party.
His rise to power is now raising questions about whether his father is seeking to establish a family dynasty to rule the massive, majority-Muslim country straddling Southeast Asia and Oceania. Jokowi’s elder son Gibran Rakabuming Raka became mayor of Surakarta in Central Java in 2020. Jokowi held the same position from 2005 to 2012.
In accepting the job, Kaesang paid tribute to his father. “I’d like to forge his path in politics for the good,” he said, according to Reuters.
Under Indonesian law, Jokowi, a 62-year-old who assumed office in 2014, can’t run for a third term when his current, second term ends next year. But his sons will be in a position to influence Indonesian politics even when he is no longer in power. Founded in 2014, the Indonesian Solidarity Party does not have any lawmakers in parliament, explained the Diplomat. However Indonesian political observers think it could become a political force after nominating a presidential candidate for the February 2024 general election.
Still, analysts say that Jokowi is just following a strong Asian tradition of keeping things all in the family. For example, in the Philippines and Cambodia, scions of political families have inherited or are set to inherit the reins of power, noted Fulcrum, the publication of the Singapore-based ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute. It’s been no different in Indonesia.
Still, interestingly, as the South China Morning Post reported, Jokowi’s younger son is not joining his political group, the Indonesian Party of Democratic Struggle. And Jokowi is also likely supporting the country’s current defense minister, Prabowo Subianto, as his replacement. That has led some observers to consider whether Jokowi was potentially attempting to outmaneuver Megawati Sukarnoputri, a former president and the leader of the Indonesian Party of Democratic Struggle, reported the Asian News Network. She and the president have been vying for control of the party, added the Jakarta Post, an English-language newspaper that covers the country.
As Time magazine noted, Jokowi’s political intrigues were ironic. He ran for office as an alternative to Indonesian elites whose families historically dominated the country’s politics. Epitomizing this system was Suharto, who ran the country from 1968 to 1998 before nationwide unrest over repression, corruption, and nepotism led to his ousting.
Jokowi has improved Indonesia’s economy by ramping up exports of raw materials while injecting cash into the economy through major infrastructure projects, Bloomberg reported. But he also has authoritarian tendencies that echo Suharto’s harsh rule, too. He has censored critics with harsh Internet laws and other measures, for example.
Now Indonesians have a chance to discover whether his sons might do the same thing.