Indonesian leader denies postponement of 2024 polls to extend term | world news


By NINIEK KARMINI, Associated Press

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Sunday denied that his administration was trying to delay the 2024 presidential elections after senior politicians, including his close ally, backed the idea of ​​extending his term beyond of the statutory term of two terms.

His statement came a day before students plan to stage a massive protest in the capital, Jakarta, and several other cities to oppose the alleged plan which they say could threaten democracy. Student protests in Indonesia often turn violent.

At a Cabinet meeting to discuss preparations for the 2024 elections, Widodo ordered his ministers to explain publicly that all stages and timetables for the ballot had been determined.

“This needs to be explained so that there are no rumors circulating among people that the government is trying to postpone the election or speculation about the president’s term being extended or a related third term,” Widodo said. in comments posted by his office on his official YouTube channel. “Because we have clearly agreed that the election will be held on February 14, 2024.”

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Powerful figures including ministers Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan and Airlangga Hartarto, who is also the chairman of the Golkar party in the ruling coalition, have suggested that the elections be postponed.

Pandjaitan, who is a close ally of Widodo, recently claimed that data shows that 110 million Indonesians support a postponement of the elections. It was unclear what data he was citing.

Recent reports from Kompas, the reputable Indonesian polling institute, indicate that Widodo is hugely popular in the archipelago nation of over 270 million people with a public trust rating of over 70%. However, a poll by Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting showed that more than 70% reject any plans to extend his term.

The two-term presidential limit was a centerpiece of the First Amendment to the Indonesian Constitution in 1999, a year after dictator Suharto was toppled by massive pro-democracy protests.

Suharto ruled Indonesia for more than three decades under an authoritarian, often violent regime. Under his rule, corruption and rights abuses became commonplace as the elite plundered the economy. His fall ushered in a democracy in Indonesia and term limits are meant to prevent a repeat of his authoritarian past.

Last Wednesday, Widodo also instructed his ministers to tackle the country’s rising inflation instead of stirring up controversy around the 2024 election.

“No one is talking about an extension of the (presidential) mandate or a postponement of the elections. No more!” Widodo said.

In June last year he told a press conference he planned to sign on to the constitution when his supporters started rolling out the idea suggesting his term could be legally extended through a constitutional amendment or a postponement of the elections.

Supporters argued that it was necessary to give Widodo more time to deal with the recovery of the economy which collapsed during the two-year pandemic, and allow him to complete his program, including including the $35 billion capital relocation project to the island of Borneo.

Despite the denials, doubts about his intentions persisted.

“People are still skeptical about Jokowi’s indecisiveness regarding the third term,” said Ujang Komarudin, a political analyst at Al-Azhar University Indonesia, using the popular nickname Widodo. “The so-called plans deviated from the constitution and would be a blow to democratic reform in Indonesia,” he said, adding that it might not stop students from taking to the streets.

Widodo was sworn in for his second and final five-year term in October 2019 with pledges to defend democracy and take bolder action against poverty and entrenched corruption in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country.

Known for his down-to-earth style, Widodo is also the first foreign president to the country’s super-rich and often corrupt political, business and military elite. He grew up in a rented bamboo shack on the banks of a flood-prone river in the town of Solo on the island of Java, and often comes off as a man of the people.

His popular appeal helped him win previous elections for Mayor of Solo and Governor of Jakarta.

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