Kaesang Pangarep: A New Face in Indonesian Politics

The youngest son of President Joko Widodo, Kaesang Pangarep, has recently captured the spotlight with his appointment as the Chairman of the Central Executive Board (DPP) of the Indonesian Solidarity Party (PSI). Kaesang’s ascent to this position marked the end of Giring Ganesha’s two-year leadership of the party. In his inaugural speech at the Jakarta Theater on September 25, 2023, Kaesang expressed his motivation for entering politics, following in his father’s footsteps, and aiming for the greater good. He said, “I want to follow in his footsteps in politics for the better. To my father, I want to say that I seek your permission to embark on this path. May God bless the journey I have chosen.”

Kaesang also elaborated on his reasons for choosing PSI as his political home. According to him, PSI is a party with brilliant ideas that needs strong energy everywhere, not just in urban areas but also in rural regions. He acknowledged that some criticized his decision to join PSI, stating, “I joined PSI precisely because this party is still small. I am interested in joining PSI because it is not yet represented in the DPR (House of Representatives), and I want to work with my friends here to make PSI a major party by 2024 and to have representation in the DPR RI in 2024.”

However, Kaesang’s appointment as chairman raised questions about the party’s cadreship process, especially in PSI, which has been known as a party of young people. Furthermore, his rapid elevation within the party, just two days after joining, led political analyst Arif Nurul Imam from IPSOS Public Affairs to question the party’s cadre regeneration process. He believed that Kaesang’s immediate rise to the chairmanship signified a lack of optimal cadreship and an inclination toward using popular figures like Kaesang for electoral gain.

Imam argued that Kaesang’s position as chairman signaled strategic political moves on the part of Jokowi, Indonesia’s current president. He suggested two possible scenarios: first, Kaesang’s appointment as chairman might be a strategic response to changes in the political landscape, such as Prabowo Subianto and Ganjar Pranowo’s failed scenario. Second, it could be an effort by Jokowi to elevate Kaesang to a public office, as Kaesang is the only member of Jokowi’s family who has not held a public position. Imam cautioned against jumping to conclusions, emphasizing that the appointment could be more about leveraging Kaesang’s popularity than any deep-seated political rivalry.

Silvanus Alvin, a political analyst from Multimedia Nusantara University, shared a similar perspective, suggesting that not all political parties prioritize cadreship in the same way. Some parties place greater emphasis on a lengthy cadreship process, while others are more open to popular public figures. Alvin pointed out that Kaesang’s appointment likely indicated PSI’s view of his popularity as an asset for preparing for the 2024 elections and the party’s future.

Alvin highlighted two key questions that need answering: first, whether Kaesang’s appointment aligns with PSI’s internal party rules, and second, whether it reflects the party’s internal consensus. He cautioned against jumping to conclusions about the implications of Kaesang’s appointment for Jokowi’s relationship with other political figures, stressing the need to monitor further developments in national politics.

Alvin also stressed that Kaesang’s appointment as PSI Chairman did not automatically imply his alignment with Prabowo or any other political faction. It is crucial to assess whether Kaesang can remain politically independent and how his role evolves over time. The true nature of his involvement in PSI’s future electoral strategies will become clearer with time.

Raja Juli, the Secretary-General of DPP PSI, explained why they chose Kaesang as their chairman despite his brief membership of just two days. He emphasized that PSI remains committed to its cadreship system but is also open to welcoming quality young members. According to Raja Juli, PSI is an open party with a new cadreship system that accommodates both experienced cadres and promising young individuals. He stated, “If the short duration from being a member to becoming chairman is a concern, for us, it’s not a problem as long as all PSI cadres across Indonesia believe that Mas Kaesang will lead PSI to victory in 2024.”

Grace Natalie, Deputy Chairman of PSI’s Board of Trustees, added that Kaesang’s selection was not a random choice. She mentioned that regional party leaders had expressed their desire for Kaesang to become chairman, which was subsequently confirmed through discussions before the party’s event. Grace highlighted the importance of continuous cadreship and regeneration efforts, even as the party welcomes new figures into leadership positions.

Kaesang Pangarep’s appointment as the Chairman of PSI has ignited discussions about political cadreship processes and the role of popular figures in Indonesian politics. While some criticize the rapid rise of a political newcomer, others see it as a strategic move by the party to harness Kaesang’s popularity for electoral success. The future will reveal whether Kaesang can maintain his political independence and whether his appointment serves PSI’s goal of becoming a major player in the 2024 elections. As Indonesia’s political landscape continues to evolve, the implications of Kaesang’s leadership role in PSI will become more apparent.