JAKARTA: Indonesian President Joko Widodo is constitutionally barred from contesting for a third term, but he has emerged as the kingmaker in the presidential polls.
Better known as Jokowi, the 62-year-old is immensely popular and has enjoyed consistently high public ratings.
A late January opinion poll put him at around 80 per cent – an impressive stamp of approval for an outgoing president.
His popularity and loyal following give him the political capital to tip the balance for candidates in the election, observers said.
Critics have accused Mr Jokowi of building a political dynasty after the constitutional court paved the way for his eldest son Gibran Rakabuming Raka to contest the election.
The court last October ruled that the minimum age of 40 for Indonesia’s presidential and vice-presidential candidates does not apply to elected regional leaders.
This allowed 36-year-old Mr Gibran, who is the mayor of his – and Mr Jokowi’s – home city of Surakarta city, to put his name on the ballot.
The decision drew criticism of nepotism, as the then chief justice was Mr Jokowi’s brother-in-law and Mr Gibran's uncle.
“With this ruling, it will directly give rise to the New Order values that we used to oppose,” said Jakarta State University student Muhamad Kholi, referring to the authoritarian regime of former Indonesian President Suharto.
“This is the beginning of nepotism and we are all against this policy because it stains democracy in Indonesia,” he added.