Elite opposition and popular rejection: the failure of presidential term limit evasion in Widodo’s Indonesia

Marcus Mietzner, Jun Honna

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    In recent years, there has been an increasing body of scholarship analyzing the conditions under which incumbent presidents can launch successful attempts to evade existing term limits. It has generally been found that if presidents use multi-strategy approaches, the probability of their success is high. Failure of term limit evasion, on the other hand, is typically ascribed to opposition by judges or to popular disapproval. The case of Indonesia, presented in this article, challenges some of these assumptions. We show that President Widodo’s attempts to achieve a revision of term limit regulations or to delay the next elections failed despite a determined multi-strategy approach, and they did so primarily because of sustained elite opposition, including from his own party. Judges played no role, and popular rejection was relevant only insofar as it aligned with elite attitudes. Widodo’s failed term evasion attempts, then, highlight two contradictory trends in Indonesia’s contemporary democracy: they demonstrated both the erosion of democratic culture that made the initiative possible and the continued resilience of democracy that ultimately thwarted the plan.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)115-131
    JournalSouth East Asia Research
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2023

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