Indonesian President Joko Widodo's eldest child seeks to become mayor of Solo

Mr Gibran Rakabuming Raka, 32, will pitch for his father's Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle in next year's regional election. PHOTO: THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

JAKARTA - Rejecting allegations that he was helping to build a political dynasty, President Joko Widodo's eldest child, Gibran Rakabuming Raka, joined the race for mayor of Central Java's city of Solo on Thursday (Dec 12).

The 32-year-old culinary businessman will pitch for his father's party, Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), Indonesia's largest party, in next year's regional election.

Mr Gibran told hundreds of supporters that they were united by "the same vision" to bring more progress to the second-tier city of more than half a million.

"We want Solo to leap forward. We don't talk about change anymore, but we talk about leap, speed. Solo must leap so that it prospers," Antara news agency quoted him saying, before his departure to Semarang, Central Java's capital.

His father began his political career as the mayor of Solo, which is officially known as Surakarta, from 2005 to 2012 before gaining national fame while serving as Jakarta governor from 2012 to 2014.

Mr Gibran, accompanied by around 1,000 supporters in 20 buses, filed documents for his candidacy at the party's provincial chapter after its Solo chapter rejected his nomination. It instead recommended party cadre Achmad Purnomo, who now serves as deputy mayor, and his running mate Teguh Prakosa.

As each party may have only one candidate to represent it, PDI-P leaders will have the final say on who it will be.

A survey by Solo-based Slamet Riyadi University in July, however, revealed Mr Gibran's popularity to be equivalent to the 70-year-old Mr Achmad's.

Prior to his nomination, Mr Gibran had met PDI-P founder and chairman Megawati Soekarnoputri in Jakarta to secure her endorsement.

Mr Joko's son-in-law, Bobby Afif Nasution, also registered on Dec 3 his nomination in the mayoral race in Medan, North Sumatra, through the PDI-P's North Sumatra chapter.

The steps taken by both have raised speculations that the president's family is building a political dynasty, which remains a common practice in the world's third-largest democracy.

Ms Puan Maharani, now the Parliament's Speaker, followed the path of her mother, Madam Megawati, who was Indonesia's fifth president and the daughter of the country's founding father and first president Sukarno.

Mr Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, the eldest son of its sixth president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, also joined the 2017 Jakarta gubernatorial race, but lost.

Mr Joko, who has three children, denied talk of a political dynasty, Antara reported on Thursday.

He underlined that every Indonesian citizen has the right to vote or to be voted, and the regional elections are competitions in which voters determine the fate of the candidates.

"In a competition, (a candidate) can win or lose. It's up to the people, who have the right to vote," he said on the sidelines of the inauguration of a toll road in Bekasi, West Java.

Mr Joko also asserted that his elder son's candidacy was his personal decision.

Mr Gibran and Mr Bobby, 28, have also rebuffed allegations of their intention to build a political dynasty.

Mr Gibran, a graduate of the Management Development Institute of Singapore, had previously hinted that he was not keen on politics and would prefer focusing on his business.

Mr Noory Okthariza, a political expert at Jakarta-based think-tank Centre for Strategic and International Studies, told The Straits Times that allegations of building a political dynasty would be hard to reject.

"Although the president does not do anything like giving them his direct support, Mr Gibran and Mr Bobby already own social and political capital which no other candidates have," he said.

He added: "Mr Joko is widely praised because he has no political dynasty and is not connected to the New Order regime. Unfortunately their candidacy shows there's an effort to set up one, which is contradictory to his image as a leader who is clean and far from Indonesia's political establishment."

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