Indonesia’s Widodo and son Gibran no longer ruling party members for supporting Prabowo in election: official

Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo and his elder son are no longer members of the country’s ruling party after they endorsed presidential election winner Prabowo Subianto over the PDI-P’s candidate, according to a party official.
Prabowo, who serves as defence minister in Widodo’s cabinet, won the February election with Widodo’s son Gibran Rakabuming Raka picked as his running mate. They secured 58 per cent of the vote, and their victory was largely attributed to the tacit support of the highly popular president.

Komarudin Watubun, who heads the ethical division of the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), told Reuters on Tuesday that Widodo and Gibran were not expelled but had ceased to be members after they chose not to endorse the party’s presidential candidate Ganjar Pranowo.

“They decided to be on the opposite side,” Komaruddin said. “Regardless of what happened, [Widodo] reached the highest career level in the party, he has become president. We want to preserve his dignity,” he said.

Widodo has over the past two decades relied on the PDI-P as a political vehicle, becoming the mayor of Solo, Jakarta governor and a two-term president with the support of his long-time patron and the party’s chairwoman Megawati Sukarnoputri. Gibran has also served as Solo mayor since 2020.

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Relations between Widodo and PDI-P leaders became strained during the election season, with some officials suggesting he had chosen to cement his legacy over the interests of the party by supporting Gibran’s political ambitions.

The announcement that Widodo is no longer a PDI-P member is not surprising, considering their strained relationship but the situation remains unclear until a more senior member of the party speaks out on the matter, according to analysts.

“I think that we should wait and see what happens … I would not be surprised if they decide to kick [Widodo] out, but at the same time, we must remember that he is still the president and holds power,” Yohanes Sulaiman, a political analyst at the University of Achmad Yani in West Java, told This Week in Asia.

“I assume the PDI-P would still want the perks that come with being the political party of the president, even if there are only a few more months left in his leadership,” he said, pointing to the prominent roles held by PDI-P cadres in Widodo’s cabinet.

Presidential candidate Ganjar Pranowo (right) and his running mate Mahfud MD (left) greet supporters in Jakarta last year. Pranowo had the endorsement of the ruling PDI-P. Photo: EPA-EFE

Similarly, Wasisto Raharjo Jati, a political analyst with the Jakarta-based National Research and Innovation Agency, said that if there was no official or direct statement from Megawati, “it is still debatable whether [Widodo] has been removed or not.

“There have been no formal meetings between [Widodo] and Megawati for some time … so there has been a rise in rumours about his position in the party, and many party officials continue to express their disappointment in him.”

What’s next for Widodo?

Widodo is set to hand over the presidency to Prabowo in October. On Tuesday, Widodo told reporters that he would soon begin the transition process for the new administration following a constitutional court ruling on Monday that dismissed election fraud claims by Pranowo and the other losing presidential candidate Anies Baswedan and confirmed Prabowo’s position as president-elect.

“The government respects the constitutional court’s decision which is final and binding,” Widodo said, adding that the ruling vindicated his administration, which had been accused of using state resources to improve Prabowo’s chances at the polls.

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Indonesia’s new leader Prabowo Subianto meets Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing

Indonesia’s new leader Prabowo Subianto meets Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing

Speculation has been rife about Widodo’s next steps, particularly since it is likely that he has lost the backing of PDI-P, which will remain the biggest party in parliament following February’s election.

Widido could retain his influence if he were to mend his relationship with PDI-P though this scenario is unlikely, Wasisto said.

The president is not a stranger to the idea of political reconciliation. He had allied with Prabowo despite their acrimonious contests in the presidential elections in 2014 and 2019.

Widodo is aiming to maintain his influence either through a bid to lead the country’s oldest party Golkar or his sons’ political careers, according to analysts.

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Despite Widodo’s implicit support for Prabowo during the election, he might not secure a significant political position once his defence minister assumes the presidency, Yohanes said.

“It is important to remember that the vice-president does not hold much power in Indonesia so Gibran may also have limited influence.”

Following the election, Prabowo’s coalition has secured 48 per cent of seats. The number could rise and enable Prabowo to gain a parliamentary majority, according to Prabowo’s senior aides.

There is also widespread speculation that Megawati may soon hold talks with Prabowo regarding the possibility of the PDI-P joining his coalition.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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