Political Dynasty in Indonesia

Isti Marta Sukma, M.A.
Political Science and Others
7 min readDec 3, 2023


is it an exaggeration or something that we have collectively underestimated?

AI-generated image

In the recent public discourse and backlash against the current regime under Joko Widodo in Indonesia, the term “political dynasty” frequently emerges as a topic of discussion. The ongoing discussions highlight the perception that President Joko Widodo has betrayed Megawati Soekarno Putri, the fifth former president of Indonesia and the current head of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P). This sentiment is particularly fueled by the unexpected selection of Gibran Rakabuming, Joko Widodo’s eldest son, as a vice-presidential candidate, in conjunction with the existing Minister of Defense, Prabowo Subianto.

This sentiment is further underscored by Megawati’s recent speech, in which she expressed strong displeasure towards ‘someone who has only recently acquired power’, intensifying the perceived breach of trust within the political dynamics.

President Jokowi, once portrayed as a leader with a notably high level of public satisfaction during his regime, is now being questioned. The image of an innocent-looking leader with a background claimed to strongly represent the Indonesian public is undergoing scrutiny and doubt.

Jokowi Blusukan, image retrieved from Google

People are raising doubts about the possibility of someone as seemingly innocent as President Jokowi harboring thoughts of a “political dynasty.” The juxtaposition of his perceived innocence with the complex image of PDI-P, which is not seen as entirely innocent either, has intensified the questioning. The ongoing clashes between Jokowi and PDIP have become a significant source of uncertainty and skepticism among the public.

Many have contended that Jokowi was seen as a beacon of hope, a leader who embodies trustworthiness and down-to-earth qualities. Accusations of involvement in political dynasty schemes would typically not be questioned if directed at a powerful and cunning leader, but the idea seems incongruous when applied to someone perceived as ‘genuine’ and ‘unpretentious’ like Jokowi.

The presence of Gibran in the governmental sector, particularly as the mayor of Solo, is seen by some as a manifestation of nepotism. The concerns are heightened when considering his subsequent nomination as a vice-presidential candidate, as this progression could be perceived as an extension of family influence within the political landscape. This situation raises questions about fairness, meritocracy, and the potential consolidation of power within a specific familial network.

The question arises: is the use of the term ‘political dynasty’ in reference to the President an overstatement, or have we perhaps underestimated his political strategies all along?

  1. The weakening of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK)

The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), established in 2003 as an independent anti-corruption body, underwent a significant shift during Joko Widodo’s regime. This transformation occurred due to the 2020 revision of the law (UU Revision), which resulted in KPK being restructured and brought under government authority, marking a notable change in its autonomy and independence.

Members of the Indonesian DPR (People’s Consultative Assembly) in the third commission argued during its proposal that the revision was not intended to weaken KPK but rather to enhance its institutional strength. However, this claim has been widely criticized and dismissed as unsubstantiated, given the subsequent perceived decline in KPK’s effectiveness and autonomy.

Recently, a shocking interview with the former head of KPK when it was still an independent body, Agus Rahardjo, revealed that President Joko Widodo had allegedly intimidated him to halt the investigation into a major corruption case related to e-KTP (electronic ID cards).

The government swiftly denied the accusation, stating that the alleged meeting did not take place and that the government played no role in the weakening of KPK, as it was a proposal from DPR (People’s Consultative Assembly). The denial emphasizes the government’s position regarding any involvement in actions that could undermine the independence and effectiveness of the Corruption Eradication Commission.

My argument points to the credibility and calculated timing of Agus Rahardjo’s statement. The perceived risk he faces by making such a serious accusation suggests a level of conviction or concern for the greater public interest, making it highly implausible for him to fabricate such a statement. Additionally, the context of other emerging cases against the President could indeed provide the perfect moment for Rahardjo to bring these allegations to light, contributing to a broader discourse on governance and accountability.

2. The problematic IKN

The concept of relocating Indonesia’s capital to Kalimantan in response to Jakarta’s sinking and the broader goal of promoting equitable development outside Java Island is not just overly ambitious but also presents a myriad of significant challenges and concerns. The initiative encounters various issues, including the lack of local involvement, complications arising from overlapping land ownership and investments, and potential environmental threats.

The IKN project retains its association with the ‘dynasty’ narrative due to its ongoing nature. The public is questioning who will be accountable for continuing this multimillion-dollar project, and this factor significantly influences electoral considerations, with voters leaning towards candidates or parties that commit to not abandoning the project. The intertwining of major development projects with political dynamics raises concerns about transparency, accountability, and the potential for these projects to be used as political tools.

3. The law and institution-bender: MK edition

Gibran’s nomination as Prabowo Subianto’s vice-presidential candidate has sparked numerous controversies, particularly concerning how a 36-year-old like Gibran is eligible to run for office. In October 2023, just before the announcement of Gibran as Prabowo’s vice-presidential candidate, the Constitutional Court (MK) approved the assertion that individuals selected through elections, even at the regional level, can now run for the presidential election even if they haven’t reached the age of 40. This marked a departure from the previous requirement of a minimum age of 40 for presidential candidates.

This decision by the Constitutional Court (MK), altering the age requirement for presidential candidates, has led to two significant backlashes against the Indonesian rule of law. Speculations have emerged suggesting that MK may have been influenced or interfered with by a powerful entity, paving the way for Gibran to easily become Indonesia’s vice president. The second concern revolves around a loss of faith in Indonesian institutions, given the perceived influence and the assumption of President Joko Widodo’s ability to weaken and interfere with laws and institutions. This raises questions about the credibility and independence of the country’s governance structures.

Professor Mujani contends that Prabowo, who had been a long-time opponent of Joko Widodo before being appointed as Minister of Defense, was expected to provide checks and balances in terms of law and institutional intervention. However, the current collaboration between them is seen as strengthening political nepotism, raising concerns about the potential compromise of checks and balances in the political landscape.

4. UU ITE as a weapon against democracy and freedom of speech

The Information and Electronic Transactions Law (UU ITE) has long been a source of controversy, with many arguing that its application impinges on the fundamental concept of freedom of speech. Unlike in the United States, where satire and humor directed at the President are common, in Indonesia, the strict enforcement of UU ITE is perceived to limit the expression of dissent or criticism, even in the form of memes or satirical content. This has led to concerns about the stifling of free speech and the impact on democratic discourse in the country.

While the Information and Electronic Transactions Law (UU ITE) was initially crafted to safeguard individuals from cybercrimes and cyberbullying, its application has raised concerns about its potential misuse against the core tenets of democracy. Critics argue that the law, intended to protect, has been weaponized to stifle opposition and curtail freedom of expression. This shift in application has sparked debates about the balance between safeguarding individuals and preserving democratic principles that require the existence of dissent and opposition.

The prominent Indonesian political critic and philosopher, Rocky Gerung, has faced legal repercussions for his outspoken views. He was reported to the police, particularly for alleged ‘insults’ against the president. This incident illustrates how the strict enforcement of laws, including the Information and Electronic Transactions Law (UU ITE), can be used to curb political critique and dissent, raising concerns about the freedom of expression and the ability to openly discuss and criticize political figures.

The existence of UU ITE has created a climate where individuals might hesitate or refrain from openly criticizing the current regime due to the potential legal consequences. The strict enforcement of this law, which was initially designed to address cybercrimes, has raised concerns about its use to restrict freedom of speech and limit dissenting opinions, potentially impacting the open discourse necessary for a healthy democratic society. It’s a possibility that the term “political dynasty” could be perceived as an insult, especially in contexts where those in power may find it offensive or damaging to their reputation. In some political landscapes, certain phrases or labels are weaponized to discredit opposition or critique. The use and interpretation of such terms often depend on the political climate and the sensitivities of those in power.

My conclusion

Describing the current political landscape in Indonesia as a political dynasty might not be an exaggeration; it just requires a more in-depth exploration. It goes beyond Gibran’s nepotism, encompassing conflicts between political parties and various stakeholders, including influential figures involved in major projects and potential instances of dishonesty within positions of authority, such as the case of Firli Bahuri. This perspective highlights the necessity for a comprehensive analysis of the complex dynamics within the Indonesian political system. Another crucial aspect that requires regular checks and balances is the utilization of institutions for political purposes. If left unchecked, there is a risk of increased institutionalization in the country, potentially paving even more way for specific families or elites to monopolize access to power.



Isti Marta Sukma, M.A.
Political Science and Others

Interdisciplinary researcher based in Warsaw. I write political science, tech, security, psychoanalysis and philosophy.