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Analysis: Coalition-building for Prabowo's incoming government

Jakarta Post - February 28, 2024

Tenggara Strategics, Jakarta – As the electoral dust settles and Prabowo Subianto looks certain to win the presidency, the focus has now shifted to the intricate process of coalition-building. The public is anticipating Prabowo's next move to consolidate power before he takes over from President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo in October.

It is Jokowi, however, who has made a head start. On Sunday the President had dinner with NasDem Party chairman Surya Paloh at the State Palace, sparking speculation that the party that nominated opposition figurehead Anies Baswedan in the presidential race will soon jump ship and join Prabowo's government coalition.

Jokowi said the meeting was only a start to coalition-building efforts and that nothing had been finalized. The President also downplayed his role, stating that he simply acted as a mediator. Surya has kept mum about the meeting although NasDem executive Willy Aditya said it was too early to talk about the party's move to join the new government's coalition.

Coordinator of presidential special staff Ari Dwipayana said Jokowi and Surya talked about national issues, global challenges and political dynamics related to the Feb. 14 election during the Sunday night encounter. Ari also confirmed it was Surya who requested the meeting, although NasDem secretary-general Hermawi Taslim denied such a claim.

The last time Jokowi held a tete-a-tete meeting with Surya came on Aug. 31, 2023, when the NasDem-led Coalition of Change for Unity electoral alliance was seeking a potential running mate to Anies. Political analysts, therefore, speculate that the Feb. 18 meeting marked a start to a negotiations to bring the party into Prabowo's Indonesia Onward Coalition, with Jokowi acting as a broker.

The National Awakening Party (PKB), whose chairman Muhaimin Iskandar ran for vice president alongside Anies, has also responded to the Jokowi-Surya meeting. PKB deputy chairman Cucun Ahmad Syamsurijal dismissed reports suggesting that the party would switch sides after seeing that Prabowo looks certain to win the race. Cucun said there had been no talks about the future of the alliance that supported Anies-Muhaimin since everybody was focusing on the vote count.

Analysts have taken into account the PKB's propensity of leaning toward the ruling coalition in the past, which may recur this time around. The PKB had left the alliance it formed with Prabowo's Gerindra and the National Mandate Party after Prabowo failed to pick Muhaimin as his running mate.

Prabowo has repeatedly said he is open to governing alongside political parties outside of his electoral alliance and that he would welcome anyone interested in his offer. Gerindra secretary-general Ahmad Muzani believes the political parties outside of the Indonesia Onward Coalition will soon join as the elites of the parties have started communing with each other. Political analysts say Prabowo will do what it takes to expand his coalition as it has not secured the majority in the House of Representatives based on the ongoing vote count in the legislative election.

Despite Prabowo's open arms, analysts have predicted a bumpy road ahead in building a coalition until after the General Elections Commission (KPU) announces the election results. Moreover, the coalition supporting Anies-Muhaimin received significant support from the public to continue advocating for ideas of change.

What's more

Although Jokowi has been heavily criticized for demonstrating his bias toward Prabowo during the election, the campaign team supporting Prabowo and Jokowi's son Gibran Rakabuming Raka acknowledges the President's role in the process of establishing their future government. A member of the team's expert council Drajad Wibobo even asserted that Jokowi would influence the selection of Prabowo's cabinet members.

Drajad of the National Mandate Party (PAN) said preliminary discussions had taken place on the formation of the cabinet involving coalition leaders and President Jokowi.

Jokowi's active role in helping Prabowo expand his coalition constitutes an intervention in political parties' affairs, but for the President such an option is inevitable as he has to make sure the Prabowo administration, in which Gibran will hold the second-highest office, governs effectively.

Regardless of who took the initiative, the meeting between Jokowi and NasDem boss Surya was pivotal partly due to the fact that the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), which looks set to win the legislative election, has hinted at playing an opposition role to the Prabowo administration.

It was reported that Jokowi had also sought to arrange a meeting with PDI-P chairwoman Megawati Soekarnoputri days before the election, presumably to discuss a reconciliation. However, no such meeting has yet to take place.

With the PDI-P winning the most seats in the House and therefore the speaker's seat, Jokowi's encounter with Surya can be interpreted as a part of the efforts to build a strong ruling coalition during the five-year presidential term of Prabowo, who has pledged to continue Jokowi's signature projects, especially the capital city relocation to East Kalimantan.

What we've heard

Prabowo Subianto has begun preparations for the transition of power. A source said that this process involves President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo. The source stated that Prabowo has met with Jokowi at least twice since the voting on Feb. 14, during which Jokowi asked Prabowo to embrace all political forces after the election.

Prabowo heeded Jokowi's advice and also met with the sixth president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY). The same source mentioned that Jokowi was asked to be an advisor to the transition team that will be formed to design the new cabinet. "One of Jokowi's suggestions is to build a strong coalition in the House," said the source.

One option being considered is to invite the NasDem Party and the National Awakening Party (PKB) to join the Onward Indonesia Coalition. One consideration is that these parties have never been outside of the government. According to a politician familiar with these negotiations, the chances of both parties joining the coalition are quite high. Prabowo's camp calculates that if these two parties accept the offer, the coalition will control more than 60 percent of the House seats.

The source mentioned that Jokowi has recommended several names to be included in the next government, such as the State Secretary Pratikno, Investment Minister Bahlil Lahadalia, and the National Police Chief General Listyo Sigit Prabowo. The possible composition between Jokowi's people and the major parties is 4-4-4, which means four from Jokowi, four from Gerindra, and four from Golkar. "Jokowi's men will also be placed in the new structure under Prabowo and will occupy strategic positions," said this politician.

Another source within Gerindra mentioned that Prabowo is also monitoring the dynamics in the House, including the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle's (PDI-P) plan to become the opposition. According to this source, if the opposition grows in strength Prabowo will ask Sufmi Dasco Ahmad to stay at the House, rather than assigning him to the Cabinet.

"Prabowo needs someone experienced in handling parliamentary dynamics," said the source.

[This content is provided by Tenggara Strategics in collaboration with The Jakarta Post to serve the latest comprehensive and reliable analysis on Indonesia's political and business landscape.]

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/opinion/2024/02/28/analysis-coalition-building-for-prabowos-incoming-government.htm