Jakarta – President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has asked State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) Minister Erick Thohir and Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Sandiaga Uno to "popularize" themselves ahead of the 2024 presidential election, a senior politician has said.
Romahurmuziy "Rommy", former United Development Party (PPP) chairman from 2016-2019 who now chairs the party's advisory council, said that the two young politico-business figures confirmed that claim to him.
"Pak Erick and Pak Sandi were asked by Pak Jokowi to spread their charm. I met Pak Erick on one occasion, and also Pak Sandi another time, they told the [PPP] chairman 'We are asked to popularize ourselves. You can check with the State Palace. Mas Rommy can also ask about it'," Rommy told a discussion in Jakarta as quoted by detik.com.
The PPP, the only Islamic party in the ruling coalition, has decided to provide a platform for both Erick and Sandiaga to get public attention ahead of 2024. "We give them space to get themselves known at the PPP. The decision [of whether or not they would be nominated as a presidential or vice-presidential candidate] will be decided later," he said.
Potential VP candidates
The PPP has flirted with the idea of nominating Sandiaga as its presidential candidate, calling him "a national asset, a commander that could help the tourist sector faster compared with other nations".
In response to the PPP proposal, Sandiaga said in a statement that he would convey the party's message to Prabowo Subianto, the leader of Gerindra Party, of which Sandiaga is a member.
"I was in attendance [at the PPP event] at the invitation of the party's acting leader and I will forward the said aspirations and messages. Of course, the decision rests with the political parties' leaders," he said.
The visible rapprochement between Sandiaga and PPP has sparked rumors that the former would leave Gerindra and join the Islamist parry. Gerindra officials, however, have dismissed such claims.
The Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), a member of the NasDem Party-led Coalition for Change, meanwhile, has tapped Sandiaga as a potential running mate for Anies Baswedan, their presidential nominee. Sandiaga has responded coolly to the suggestion, saying that as a Cabinet member he was now focusing on helping the President.
While no political parties have expressed their intention to nominate Erick, the minister is seen as a potential running mate for Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo, the frontrunner in the presidential race, according to credible pollsters.
All the President's men
Rommy said that the President had two "scenarios" for 2024. The first scenario was whoever was seeking to replace him in 2024 had to be backed by an alliance of parties led by a member of the ruling coalition.
"This has almost materialized," he said, highlighting the fact that the existing alliances of parties: the United Indonesia Coalition (KIB), the Gerindra-National Awakening Party (PKB) coalition and the Coalition for Change were led by a pro-government party.
The second scenario was that he wanted the election contenders to be "all the President's men". "It's like that movie title, so the presidential candidates, the vice-presidential candidates [are all the President's men]. That is why he mentioned SOEs Minister Erick Thohir and Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Sandiaga Uno," he said.
Rommy, who was sent to jail for two years after being convicted of corruption in 2020, said that the President only wanted to ensure the continuity of his programs. (ahw)