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Analysis: Political parties shift fight to regional head elections

Jakarta Post - June 10, 2024

Tenggara Strategics, Jakarta – After concluding the general election, Indonesia is now preparing another political battle in the simultaneous regional head elections scheduled for Nov. 27, with 37 gubernatorial, 451 regency and 93 mayoral posts on the line. Major parties and power brokers are testing the water before the General Elections Commission (KPU) closes registration of candidates on Aug. 19.

President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's son, Kaesang Pangarep, who leads the Indonesian Solidarity Party (PSI) has been in the spotlight as a result of political maneuvering to make him eligible to contest a regional head election, either in Surakarta or even Jakarta. If this happens, he will follow in the footsteps of his elder brother Gibran Rakabuming Raka and father Jokowi, who both used the Surakarta mayoral post as a stepping stone for higher office. Jokowi won the Jakarta governorship in 2012 and presidency in 2014, while Gibran won the vice presidential seat in the Feb. 14, race, which many observers regard as the worst election since the beginning of the Reform era in 1998.

Kaesang, who will turn 30 in December, stands a chance of running for the Jakarta governor only after the Supreme Court revoked a provision in the KPU regulation that restricts the gubernatorial elections to candidates who are aged 30 or older when the poll body confirms their registration. The court changed the age requirement, allowing candidates who are 30 when they are inaugurated to run. In the case of the upcoming regional elections, elected regional heads will be sworn-in in early 2025.

Another attractive figure for the incoming regional elections is Anies Baswedan, who lost to Prabowo Subianto in the February presidential election. Anies, who won quite a significant number of votes in Jakarta during the presidential race, is tipped as the favorite to win the Jakarta gubernatorial post for the second time in a row.

Several newly elected lawmakers, namely the NasDem Party's Ahmad Sahroni, the Gerindra Party's Sudewo, the National Awakening Party's (PKB) Ida Fauziyah, the Democratic Party's Dede Yusuf, the National Mandate Party's (PAN) Sigit "Pasha Ungu" Purnomo, and several others, are also considering their participation in the simultaneous regional elections, given the large votes they won in their respective constituencies for the previous legislative election.

However, the prevailing legislation stipulates that lawmakers must step down from their legislative seats if they decide to run in the regional elections, which could cause hesitation among them.

The backwash from the previous presidential election has not yet subsided even in the regional elections. The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) is out to fight whoever Jokowi endorses in the regional elections, victories in which would be sweet revenge for Jokowi's decision to support Prabowo instead of the PDI-P's presidential candidate Ganjar Pranowo.

The PDI-P has fulfilled its promise by refusing to support Bobby Nasution, Jokowi's son-in-law, in his bid to run for the North Sumatra governorship. The party had previously revoked the Medan mayor's PDI-P membership for declaring his support for Prabowo in the presidential election. Bobby won the mayoral post in 2020 with the backing of the PDI-P.

Despite its enmity with Jokowi, the PDI-P has no problem in forming a coalition with Prabowo's Gerindra Party and its allies to win several strategic regions in the upcoming local elections, such as Central Java province, which is the PDI-P's traditional stronghold.

In a recent meeting the PDI-P set a target of winning as many regional head posts as possible to boost popularity in case it decides to stay out of the incoming government. It has touted prominent members, such as former Jakarta governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, former Surabaya mayor Tri Rismaharini and former Indonesian Military (TNI) commander Gen. Andhika Perkasa, for nominations, which many believe is part of the party's attempt to test the waters.

Moreover, political parties are also eyeing popular celebrities as candidates for regional head posts as an easy way to win votes, or at least to boost their image. Raffi Ahmad, Ahmad Dhani, Kris Dayanti, Rano Karno, Marshel Widianto, Desi Ratnasari and several others have been suggested as potential candidates.

For those aspiring for regional head posts, there is practically no other way to realize their bid than contesting under political party banners. Although independent candidates are allowed to run, most politicians prefer endorsement from political parties. In Jakarta, for example, only one independent candidate pair has registered with the regional elections commission.

What we've heard

Politicians close to the Palace have said the Jakarta gubernatorial election is not the only choice for Kaesang to build his political future. President Jokowi, according to one of the sources, is mapping out his youngest son's prospects through several surveys in various regions. "The final survey results will be completed in August," said the source.

In the end Kaesang will run in the region where he stands the best chance of winning, based on surveys.

This source said Jokowi has entrusted two individuals to carry out the surveys. The two were outspoken in supporting a third presidential term for Jokowi a few years ago and include M. Qodari, the founder of Indobarometer.

In Jakarta, the Kaesang-led PSI must form a coalition to make him eligible to run. Kaesang has expressed interest in partnering with Anies, but a source close to Anies said the former Jakarta governor has not made a move to begin talks with Kaesang's team. Anies has instead opened communication with one of the Jakarta leaders of the PDI-P, which is why the party has raised the idea of endorsing Anies as a candidate for the Jakarta gubernatorial post.

[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/2024/06/10/analysis-political-parties-shift-fight-to-regional-head-elections.htm