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Analysis: Third time lucky? Prabowo to contest presidential race again

Jakarta Post - August 22, 2022

Tenggara Strategics, Jakarta – Prabowo Subianto officially confirmed his bid to run for president in 2024 at the Gerindra Party's national leadership meeting (Rapimnas) last weekend. This will be Prabowo's third attempt to become the leader of the world's third-largest democracy. Although his chances of winning look promising based on opinion polls, he still needs to pick the right running mate to strategically boost his standing.

In a recent survey by Indonesia Polling Stations (IPS) conducted in the first week of August, Prabowo saw a relatively steep increase in his rating. IPS polled some 1,200 respondents and found that 30.2 percent of the respondents would vote for Prabowo, followed by Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo and Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan. It is important to note that all three presidential hopefuls have consistently topped various polls in the last few months.

Meanwhile, the IPS survey also found that the top-three political parties with the highest electability are the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) with 22.3 percent, followed by Gerindra (17.8 percent) and the Golkar Party (10.9 percent). Interestingly, the Democratic Party is not far behind Golkar, with an electability of 10.8 percent. Islam-based National Awakening Party (PKB), however, places sixth with 6.7 percent. Similar results were also found in a survey conducted by Politika Research & Consulting (PRC) in June.

Electability ratings aside, Prabowo will certainly join the 2024 presidential race as a strong contender. This may be thanks to President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, who, in 2019, asked Prabowo to take the helm of the Defense Ministry. Prabowo was appointed to a high-profile position that did not come laden with as many controversies as other Cabinet posts. As a result, the public has been able to witness Prabowo's capability in carrying out his ministerial duties, effectively cementing his place in the government, according to Centre for Strategic and International Studies analyst Edbert Gani.

While his chances of winning look promising, Prabowo still needs to pull his weight and choose a running mate that will certainly boost his standing. Many names have been thrown into the fray, especially since Gerindra signed a coalition deal with the PKB, whose support base is mostly made up of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) followers. Past elections have shown that votes from NU's strongholds East Java and Central Java were crucial to winning. Although Prabowo's running mate may not have to strictly be a PKB member, it would be more strategic to have someone who can rein in NU votes at his side.

One figure oft-mentioned is East Java Governor Khofifah Indar Parawansa, to whom Prabowo paid a visit during his political safari in early May. As chairwoman of NU's women wing PP Muslimat, Khofifah would be a fitting choice for a running mate and may even complement Prabowo's leadership, according to Charta Politica executive director Yunarto Wijaya.

The alliance between Gerindra and the PKB has also solidified some speculation that PKB chair Muhaimin "Cak Imin" Iskandar would be Prabowo's running mate. The two would certainly make a powerful pair if it were not for the fact that the PKB seems intent on nominating their party chairman as a presidential candidate as well.5 But as always, nothing is set in stone when it comes to Indonesian politics. Parties can formally nominate their candidate pair from Oct. 9 to Nov. 25, 2023, which means Gerindra and Prabowo still have time to probe their choices and find a suitable running mate.

What's more

Although Prabowo may be looking for a running mate who can help secure votes from key regions like East Java, he might prefer someone that can help finance his campaign spending, as when he chose self-made billionaire Sandiaga Uno back in 2019.

In January 2019, the Prabowo-Sandiaga campaign team reported that Sandiaga contributed 73 percent of the total Rp 54 billion the pair had raised in campaign funds by then, which was about Rp 39.6 billion. Prabowo himself, as son-in-law of former president Soeharto was the second-biggest donor to their campaign, having contributed Rp 13 billion.

Regardless of the fact that Indonesian politics is notorious for its high costs, the 2024 elections may be Prabowo's last opportunity to vie for the highest office, so it would not be surprising if he went all out this time. After all, the voting population will be drastically different by the 2029 presidential elections and Prabowo may hardly be relevant by then.

Prabowo's decision to run for president for a third time, after back-to-back losses to Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, came after Gerindra members unanimously agreed to nominate the party chairman as their candidate. Since Jokowi is barred by the Constitution from running for a third term, Prabowo may stand a greater chance of winning this time around.

What we've heard

Although Prabowo has already announced his intention to enter the presidential race, a source from both the Gerindra Party and National Awakening Party (PKB) claims that Prabowo is still undecided about who his running mate will be. One reason is because PKB continues to push Muhaimin Iskandar to run for vice president.

The source said that Muhaimin was aware that the Gerindra Party needed PKB, especially since other coalitions such as the United Indonesia Coalition, which consists of the Golkar Party, the United Development Party (PPP) and the National Mandate Party (PAN), are unlikely to support Prabowo. Moreover, it may also be difficult to form coalitions with other parties, such as NasDem, the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and the Democratic Party, "given Prabowo's relationships with Surya Paloh and SBY", the source added. Thus, the only political alternatives left for Prabowo are PKB and Muhaimin.

However, the source continued, Muhaimin's electability is much lower than other potential candidates according to several surveys. Muhaimin's rating in a Charta Politica survey, for one, amounted to only 1.3 percent, whereas other potential candidates, such as Khofifah, reached a 3-percent rating. "But we still encouraged Muhaimin because he is the party chairman," said the source.

PKB is also considering Khofifah as Prabowo's running mate. A source from Gerindra said that this was thanks to President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, who suggested to Prabowo last Idul Fitri that he should choose a running mate with a NU background. Other than Khofifah, who heads NU Muslimat, Jokowi also mentioned Erick Thohir, who is an honorary member of NU's Barisan Ansor Serbaguna (Banser) youth wing.

A source within the Presidential Palace also said that Jokowi had met with Khofifah in July 2022. During the meeting, the source explained, the President asked Khofifah to consider running alongside Prabowo. The issue, however, is that Khofifah intends to run as East Java governor in the upcoming 2024 general elections. This is why Khofifah has not yet decided what route to take in the 2024 political competition. However, during this meeting, the source said, "Khofifah said she would take President Jokowi's advice for the upcoming 2024 election".

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/opinion/2022/08/22/analysis-third-time-lucky-prabowo-to-contest-presidential-race-again.htm