Hundreds of protesters, mostly students, took to the streets in the Indonesian capital on Thursday, expressing concern over rumors that the government is considering postponing the 2024 presidential election to allow President Joko Widodo to remain in office after the legal limit of two terms. threat to the country’s democracy.
The protesters also protested rising food and oil prices, a controversial labor law and being targeted by activists who oppose government policies.
Unions, farmers’ organizations and women’s groups also joined the protests, which flared up again after another demonstration on April 11 outside the parliament building in Jakarta, where police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse the crowd, and in other cities around the world. world. country. Calm had largely returned in the past 10 days.
Jakarta authorities on Thursday blocked the streets leading to the heavily guarded presidential palace and parliament building. Protesters had gone there to demand that lawmakers not delay elections or change the constitution so that Widodo can be back in business by 2024.
Widodo has denied that his government is attempting to postpone the vote after leading politicians, including a close ally, supported the idea, and ordered the cabinet to confirm that the elections are set for February 14, 2024.
Despite denials, doubts about his intentions remain.
Thursday’s protest involved about 800 people, according to Jakarta police spokesman Endra Zulpan, who said the crowds dispersed peacefully as darkness fell.
The protesters rejected the widely criticized job creation law in the country, which was declared unconstitutional in a Constitutional Court ruling last November, and urged the government and the legislature to continue ongoing deliberations to amend it. change to blow off. Critics say it would paralyze labor rights and harm the environment.
Protesters also demanded that the government stop the alleged violence and repression of activists defending the rights of the underprivileged, including those displaced by government development projects, as well as opponents who criticize the Widodo administration.
The National Police is under fire for allegedly using excessive force against suspected criminals and breaking the law by criminalizing critics and activists.
Protesters near the blocked streets to the presidential palace were looking to meet with Widodo. They chased the president out because he hadn’t met them. A speaker read their demands, including that the government immediately cut the price of fuel and staple foods, including cooking oil, which has soared in recent months, and raise wages to curb inflation.
“We will continue to fight and the wave of demonstrations will continue if the government does not listen to our demands,” a speaker standing atop a small truck shouted to the crowd.
Powerful political figures, including ministers Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan and Airlangga Hartarto, who also chairs the Golkar party in the ruling coalition, have suggested that the elections should be postponed.
Proponents have argued that Widodo needs more time to tackle the economy, which collapsed during the pandemic, and complete its agenda, including a $35 billion project to move the capital to the island of Borneo.
Presidents are limited to two terms under the First Amendment to Indonesia’s constitution, which was passed in 1999, a year after dictator Suharto was overthrown by mass pro-democracy protests.
Suharto ruled Indonesia for more than three decades under an authoritarian, often violent regime. During his reign, corruption and human rights abuses became ubiquitous as the elite looted the economy. Its demise ushered in democracy, and the term limit is intended to prevent a repeat of the authoritarian past.