Tenggara Strategics, Jakarta – Amid their string of People's Conferences (Musra), as many as 18 representatives of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's volunteer groups have been seen embarking on a "political safari". Recently, they met with Gerindra Party chairman Prabowo Subianto, after holding a similar meeting with Golkar Party chairman Airlangga Hartato. The move has raised questions regarding the groups' game plan, more so considering how Jokowi has less than two years left in office.
According to Gerindra deputy chairman Sufmi Dasco Ahmad, Prabowo and Jokowi's volunteer groups discussed issues concerning nationality and the future contributions of anak bangsa (children of the nation). Sufmi denied speculation that during the meeting, which he described as a "silaturahmi [communal bond]", the groups lent its support for Prabowo as a presidential candidate in the upcoming election.
Beforehand, on a couple of occasions, Jokowi had made remarks that appeared to endorse Prabowo as his successor.
Prabowo revealed more information regarding his meeting with Jokowi's volunteer groups, stating that the groups conveyed the results of their ongoing conferences that had already been held in various regions. Prabowo did not disclose further information, although the defense minister added that he and the volunteer groups had agreed to continue communicating.
The conferences, initiated by Jokowi's volunteer groups, are held to collect the people's aspirations for their preferred presidential and vice presidential candidate for the 2024 presidential election. A total of 10 conferences will be held by the end of the year, with the first conference taking place last month in Pekanbaru, the capital of Riau, and expected to end in December in Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara.
According to Budi Arie Setiadi, chairman of the Jokowi volunteer group Projo, the conferences were significant in determining the direction of the upcoming election. He revealed that the results of the conferences were topped with recommendations for Prabowo, Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo and Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Sandiaga Uno as presidential candidates. However, Prabowo has been gaining the most significant traction, notably in South Sumatra and West Sumatra.
"Based on the records of the conferences, Prabowo's name is prominent. This means the people want Prabowo to be Jokowi's successor", said Budi. Other names emerging on the list of preferred presidential candidates include former Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan, Golkar Party chairman Airlangga Hartato, Army chief of staff Gen. Dudung Abdurachman and Presidential Chief of Staff Moeldoko.
The names of the preferred candidates from each conference across Indonesia will be compiled and in January 2023, the final results will be announced at the summit of the People's Conferences (Musra) in Jakarta. Chairman of the Musra Steering Committee Andi Gani Nena Wea said the event was previously scheduled for March 2023, but due to "extraordinary political progress", the date was pushed forward to January.
After the height of the conferences, Jokowi's volunteer groups plan to meet with a number of political party leaders to announce the top five presidential and vice presidential candidates gathered from the results of the Musra. According to Andi, the groups would convey this announcement to the political parties who had the right to nominate a candidate for the upcoming election.
"We will convey it to the political parties that have the right to nominate, so that is political parties that are in the parliament. Not non-parliamentary political parties," said Andi.
In response to the volunteer groups "political safari", Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) secretary-general Hasto Kristiyanto said the groups could maneuver in any direction in terms of finding a presidential candidate to support for the upcoming election.
According to Hasto, this was due to the nature of volunteer groups that were different from political parties. He argued that volunteer groups were unknown in the legislation of Indonesia's political system and did not have a solid organizational structure.
Reports have said that Jokowi's volunteer groups were seen as the President's only source of political power ahead of the 2024 elections, though his influence is predicted to wane as he gets closer to the election – and by extension, the support groups too. As a result, the volunteer groups have been looking for cues from the President about who he wants as his successor in 2024 and they will campaign for that candidate.
"The point is we will follow Pak Jokowi. If he supports Prabowo, we will support him too," Projo chairman Budi Arie said.
What we've heard
A source among the volunteers said their activities in a number of areas were under the direction of Jokowi, which came after scenarios and efforts to extend the President's term in office failed. A source within the Palace said Jokowi saw the opportunity to extend his presidential term as rather impossible to execute.
The source added that Jokowi needs to ensure that the person who succeeds him will continue the legacy of the programs he initiated. Jokowi would also most likely want to build a large coalition against the opposition party, who is touted to support Anies Baswedan. For this reason, those approached by Jokowi's volunteers came from Jokowi's circle, such as Gerindra Party chairman Prabowo Subianto, Golkar Party chairman Airlangga Hartarto, and Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo.
Jokowi has already begun to openly express his support for a number of potential figures. One of them is Prabowo, which the President mentioned during an event marking the anniversary of the United Indonesia Party (Perindo). "The volunteers responded by going on a 'safari' to the individuals endorsed by the President," said the source.
Although consisting of many volunteers, Jokowi's most prominent supporter is Projo. The organization uses the popular People's Conference (Musra) method to push forward a candidate they support. "They use a survey in various regions and announce the results during the Musra", added the source.
The Musra has been held in a number of cities in Indonesia with varying results. Musra participants in several cities in Sumatra chose Prabowo as their preferred presidential candidate, while Sandiaga Salahuddin Uno was found to rank first place during the Musra in Riau. Several chairmen of other political parties, such as Airlangga Hartato, have also been shortlisted as a candidate wanted by the Musra participants.
"This survey is a bargaining tool for these political figures", said another source from one of Jokowi's volunteer organizations.