Despite President Joko Widodo’s attempts to quell suspicion that a plot was being developed to keep him in power longer, students demonstrated in Indonesia on Monday against rising cooking oil costs and a rumored extension of his term.
Hundreds of students wearing neon jackets marched toward parliament in different districts of Indonesia, including South Sulawesi, West Java, and the capital Jakarta, to protest rising goods costs and the possibility of the president exceeding his two-term limit.
After some key political leaders publicly embraced it, the concept of extending Jokowi’s term, either by altering the constitution or delaying the 2024 election, has gained traction in the world’s third-largest democracy.
Jokowi, 60, ordered ministers and security leaders to stop debating the subject on Sunday for the second time in less than a week, saying it was apparent that an election would be held in February 2024, as planned.
“Don’t let the public believe that the government is attempting to postpone the election or that there is talk about extending the presidential term or anything linked to a third term,” he urged a meeting.
The concept of allowing presidents to serve more than two five-year terms has sparked fears of a backlash against hard-won democratic reforms.
After flocking to the streets in 1998 during massive protests that helped overthrow former strongman President Suharto, students have usually been at the forefront of attempts to defend Indonesia’s democratic gains.
Since his election in 2014, Jokowi has maintained a strong approval rating, but a recent poll by pollster Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting found that more than 70% of Indonesians oppose the extension plan.
He has been chastised for his equivocal attitude on the matter, which he has described as a “slap in the face” and “simply a concept,” without openly rejecting it or ruling out the possibility of remaining in power.