Jokowi’s Political Ambitions Threaten Party Unity and Ideological Consistency

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jokowi's political ambitions threaten party unity and ideological consistency

Megawati Sukarnoputri, the chairwoman of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), highlighted that Joko Widodo would serve as a “petugas partai” (party duty bearer) when the PDI-P nominated him as its presidential candidate in 2013. But when Jokowi’s second term as president ends in 2023, it is clear that he is not, and likely never was, a true “PDI-P task bearer.”

There have been rumours of Jokowi starting his own political group based on volunteer associations throughout his time in office. Even if he hasn’t started a new party, it is evident that Jokowi views himself as a distinct political player and is attempting to lay the groundwork for expanding his influence after his term as president. His efforts to establish a political dynasty are evident in his son and son-in-law’s victory in the mayoral elections while in office.

Tensions have grown between Megawati and Jokowi over this desire for a separate political entity, which has resulted in a power struggle inside the PDI-P. After the party nominated Ganjar Pranowo, tensions increased as Jokowi seemed unwilling to support the contender. Instead, he proposed that he would “cawe-cawe” or meddle in the presidential nomination process, whispering in the ears of different parties to decide which to support. With the latest reorganisation of his cabinet, Jokowi made clear that he intended to increase his power by selecting a supporter for a crucial ministerial position. Some PDI-P supporters may interpret this action as Jokowi’s reaffirmation of his independence from the party.

Despite this tussle for power, Jokowi might ultimately decide to back Ganjar Pranowo. But he wants some assurances from the PDI-P to ensure the party would back his family’s political ambitions. Jokowi is keen to increase his power within the PDI-P, formally or as a kingmaker, even though he lacks political organization.

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Uncertainties exist around what Jokowi can demand in this exceptional circumstance of an incumbent president without his party dealing with a previous president and chair of a long-standing party. His political views, based on unrestrained free market capitalism, differ from those of the conventional PDI-P, which also includes a Marhaenist branch supporting welfare-state capitalism. This stream would be under much more strain if Jokowi became more powerful inside the party, which might jeopardise the party’s cohesion and ideological coherence.

In addition, Jokowi’s alternative of supporting Prabowo Subianto does not ensure his ability to pursue future political goals. He appears to be trying to establish himself as the kingmaker, a position that might be compromised if Megawati rejects his demands and calls his bluff.

Finally, Jokowi’s political aspirations cast doubt on the PDI-P’s ideological integrity and undermined the party’s unity. Even after leaving office, his thirst for more power has created friction with the party’s leadership and made the party’s fundamental principles unstable. The PDI-P must address these concerns right once and strike a compromise between granting Jokowi’s wishes and respecting its ideological beliefs in order to preserve the party’s integrity and unity. The party can only get past this challenging point and guarantee a solid and unified future through such thorough negotiation.

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