Indonesia ruling party official: President no longer a member after supporting opposition

Joko Widodo won the presidency twice with the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP), but this year backed another party’s candidate for president.
Pizaro Gozali Idrus and Arie Firdaus
Indonesia ruling party official: President no longer a member after supporting opposition PDIP founder and ex-President Megawati Sukarnoputri (left), Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo (second from left), then-presidential candidate of the PDIP, Ganjar Pranowo (right), and Vice President Maruf Amin, attend an event to celebrate the nation’s founder, Bung Karno Stadium, Jakarta, June 24, 2023.
[Gyl Batara/AFP]

Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and his eldest son no longer are members of the ruling party because of their support for an opposition candidate who won this year’s presidential election, a senior party official said Tuesday.  

Jokowi, who won the presidency twice with the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP), was seen as having backed the opposition’s Prabowo Subianto and his running mate,  Gibran Rakabuming Raka – the president’s eldest son – instead of his party’s nominee, the official said. 

The president, however, never formally endorsed or expressed his support for any candidate in the February polls.

“They are no longer members because they decided to be on the opposing side,” PDIP official Komarudin Watubun told BenarNews.

When BenarNews asked Komarudin whether the party had expelled Jokowi and his son he ignored the question, but he told the Reuters news agency that the two had not been expelled. They had stopped being PDIP members when they decided not to endorse party candidate Ganjar Pranowo for president, Reuters quoted Komarudin as saying.

BenarNews also contacted Ari Dwipayana, coordinator of the President’s Special Staff, for comment from Jokowi, but did not hear back. 

“It’s okay,” said Gibran, the president’s son and vice president-elect, when journalists asked him to comment on Komarudin’s statement that he was no longer a PDIP member, CNN Indonesia reported.

Jokowi, who joined the PDIP in 2004, used the party as a vehicle to contest in the Surakarta (Solo) mayoral election, which he won twice. Subsequently he won the Jakarta gubernatorial election and then two consecutive presidential elections terms – the maximum allowed under the constitution – with the same party.

Gibran followed his father’s path. He became mayor of Surakarta in 2020, backed by the PDIP, which he joined a year earlier.

Jokowi-Megawati rift

However, ties have been strained now for more than a year between the chairwoman and founder of PDIP, Megawati Sukarnoputri, also a former president, and Jokowi. The two were once close –  she allowed him to run for president in the 2014 election.

Some analysts said the two differed over who should get the party’s nod for the 2024 presidential race. Others said they grew apart after supporters began to press Jokowi to endorse a successor who could continue his policies and programs. 

Local media also reported through last year that, according to party insiders, Megawati didn’t take kindly to alleged signs that Jokowi was attempting to build a political dynasty.

Still, the two sides denied any distance between them.

By October no formal acknowledgement or denial of a rift was required as things couldn’t have become more clear.

Prabowo, currently defense minister, picked Gibran as his running mate, just a week after a Constitutional Court ruling paved the way for the 36-year-old Widodo scion to be able to contest for the post of vice president.

A former general. Prabowo, leader of the Great Indonesia Movement (Gerindra) party, may have figured he would benefit from even an indirect association with Jokowi, who back then enjoyed a popularity rating of 76%.

Presidents are not allowed to declare support for any candidates but few believed that Jokowi didn’t tacitly support the Prabowo-Gibran ticket. 

The Feb. 14 polls saw Prabowo receive 58.61% of the vote. He had failed twice before to win the presidency, losing to Jokowi 2014 and 2019. 

He outpaced, by a wide margin, former Jakarta Gov. Anies Baswedan, who received 24.9%, and former Central Java Gov. Ganjar, who received 16.5%.

A vendor sells pictures of Indonesian President-elect Prabowo Subianto (top center) and Vice President-elect Gibran Rakabuming Raka (top right) at his kiosk in Jakarta, April 23, 2024. [Bay Ismoyo/AFP]

The February election was the worst since the country transitioned to democracy, two watchdog groups said later that month, citing issues ranging from campaign finance to electoral fraud. 

The two groups, Indonesia Corruption Watch and KontraS, a human rights group, accused the outgoing Jokowi of meddling in presidential and legislative elections and showing favoritism toward the winning ticket.

Earlier this week, on Monday, Indonesia’s Constitutional Court threw out two complaints challenging the result of the Feb. 14 presidential election, lifting the final hurdle for Prabowo to take over leadership of the 270 million population country in October.

The PDIP’s decision to no longer recognize Jokowi as a party member was the right step, said Dedi Kurnia Syah, executive director of Indonesia Political Opinion, a Jakarta-based group that monitors and surveys mass sentiment.

“At least it can strengthen PDIP’s position, so the party will be only filled with … pure party members,” Dedi told BenarNews.

Additionally, Jokowi’s absence from the party would not affect it, because it had a strong infrastructure and loyal members, said Hendri Satrio, political analyst at Paramadina University. 

“Jokowi has been able to become big all this time because of PDIP, while the party existed long before him,” he told BenarNews.


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