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Indonesian President Jokowi’s son confronts ‘nepo baby’ label in Vice Presidential debate

Gibran, President Jokowi’s son, faces “nepo baby” criticism, implying privilege from family ties.

Despite limited political background except a two-year mayorship, he’s accused of leveraging his father’s influence. Gibran dismissed these accusations, creating high anticipation for his debated debut last Friday.



INDONESIA: A recent Vice-Presidential debate in Indonesia drew international attention, with foreign media outlets like Al Jazeera focusing on Gibran Rakabuming Raka’s candidacy for Vice President, running as the second-in-command.

Gibran, President Joko Widodo’s (Jokowi) eldest son, has been labelled a “nepo baby,” a term suggesting advantage through familial connections.

Al Jazeera‘s coverage, titled “Indonesian Leader’s Son Brushes Off ‘Nepo Baby’ Tag in Feted Debate Showing,” focuses on Gibran’s response to allegations of nepotism during the debate held on 22 Dec.

Despite facing accusations of perpetuating a political dynasty, Gibran refuted these claims by exhibiting a deep understanding of economic and investment issues.

Observers interviewed by Al Jazeera noted his preparedness and confidence, elevating perceptions of his candidacy.

However, the debate highlighted economic topics and exposed candidates’ limited understanding, particularly in explaining funding sources for government initiatives.

The term ‘nepo baby’ was explained by cultural studies expert Sri Kusumo Habsari from the Faculty of Cultural Sciences at Universitas Sebelas Maret (UNS).

According to Habsari, ‘nepo baby’ is short for ‘nepotism baby,’ signifying a person who is famous primarily due to their parents’ achievements, carrying a negative connotation of being less accomplished and still immature.

Habsari noted that society often attaches this stigma to children of accomplished parents, questioning whether their success is a result of their abilities or influenced by their parents’ achievements.

The term is used to call someone out when there is scepticism regarding their accomplishments.

Sociologist Drajat Tri Kartono from UNS explained that ‘nepo baby’ has a negative undertone, originally referring to children of Hollywood artists who entered major films without significant acting skills.

The privilege of entering elite circles due to family connections is seen as a shortcut to success.

Despite the negative connotations, Drajat acknowledged that some people view ‘nepo babies’ as more trustworthy and loyal.

He argued that their loyalty can help maintain the protection of economic or political rulers.

Drajat further compared ‘nepo baby’ to ‘meritocracy,’ emphasizing that the former relies on familial connections rather than individual merit.

He acknowledged the prevalence of ‘nepo babies’ in various fields, including politics and business, and highlighted that even though they may enter prestigious positions through nepotism, they still need to compete professionally to earn recognition.


All three VP candidates were criticized for shallow discussions and lack of solutions in latest national debate

Earlier criticisms expressed disappointment with all three candidates for lacking depth in addressing critical issues and failing to offer comprehensive solutions.

Heru Sutadi, a digital economy expert and Executive Director of the Indonesia ICT Institute, remarked that none of the three vice presidential candidates gained a clear advantage in articulating their vision and mission for Indonesia’s digital economy.

Heru highlighted that the discussion on populist and digital economy themes seemed superficial and lacked depth.

He suggested that the three vice-presidential candidates delve more into these topics to provide a comprehensive understanding.

According to Heru, the discussion on the vision and mission of the digital economy holds significant importance, especially considering Indonesia’s aim to achieve developed country status by 2045.

In another interview, a people’s economy observer from Universitas Gadjah Mada (UGM), Hempri Suyatna, assessed that the answers from the vice presidential candidates on the issue of people’s economy and digitalisation were “not very sharp” and “not focused on the core problems faced by the community”.

According to him, the problem faced by micro/small/medium enterprises (MSME) businesses is the onslaught of illegal products entering Indonesia through digital stores in e-commerce and social commerce.

Dhenny Yuartha Junifta, a researcher at INDEF’s Centre of Food, Energy, and Sustainable Development, highlighted the discourse on state revenue was absent during the latest V debate.

“Historically, we’ve been entangled in the reliance on short-term revenue from natural resources,” Dhenny shared with BBC Indonesia.

The significant increase in our tax ratio, especially during the commodity boom, highlights this historical trend.”

Dhenny stressed that the vice-presidential candidates should discuss measures to boost new revenue, specifically emphasising institutional formation.

Secondly, Dhenny pointed out the absence of discussion on streamlining non-priority spending during the vice-presidential debate.

“This is a crucial matter as only one-third of the state budget is allocated for development. Unfortunately, this aspect was overlooked by the vice-presidential candidates,” noted Dhenny.

Lastly, according to Dhenny, the debate lacked a comprehensive discussion on subsidy governance.

“This is a crucial aspect left out of the conversation,” he remarked.

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“nepo baby” is very apt for Gibran. Jokowi is making LKY’s mistake by positioning his son as the potential successor to Prabowo. Gibran is too “baby” faced which fairly or unfairly gives rise to questions of his depth of experience and intellect.


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