Jakarta – Despite the warming political tensions on both the elite and grassroots levels following the declaration of former Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan as presidential candidate of the NasDem Party, the move is worthy of an acknowledgment as the fruit of political reforms more than 20 years ago. If the NasDem-led coalition is solid behind Anies, he will emulate Joko "Jokowi" Widodo as a governor who aspired for a bigger mandate and a local figure who sought to expand his field of service to the national level.
In the same vein, other regional leaders deserve a shot in the 2024 presidential election and the country does not fall short of local figures who have proved their mettle and are ready to step up the ladder. It is unfortunate, however, that not all political parties embrace the view of picking presidential candidates from the pool of high-achieving regional leaders. This political mobility of regional leaders to the highest office is common in democracies and in Indonesia this should not stop at Jokowi, who will end his second presidential term in October 2024.
Opinion polls have consistently put Anies and Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo at the top of the list, aside from Gerindra Party chairman and Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto. Trailing them are a number of regional leaders like West Java Governor Ridwan Kamil and East Java Governor Khofifah Indar Parawansa, who rank better than national figures like House of Representatives Speaker Puan Maharani and Golkar Party chairman and Coordinating Economics Minister Airlangga Hartarto.
Unlike Anies, who has secured political support, Ganjar has been left in the cold despite his high electability ratings. Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) chairwoman Megawati Soekarnoputri, who holds the party mandate to choose a presidential candidate, has so far remained tightlipped about the matter as she is torn between her daughter, Puan, and the party's bid to win the presidential race for the third time in a row.
Speaking at a Golkar function on Friday, President Jokowi asked political parties to exercise wisdom in selecting presidential candidates but warned they should not take too long to make up their minds. For Megawati, Jokowi's remarks should mount pressure on her to take decisive action, taking into consideration public aspirations, including the opinion surveys.
Megawati and Jokowi have several times met, including on Oct. 8 at Batu Tulis Palace in Bogor, and are supposed to talk about who is the right presidential candidate the PDI-P should choose. The fact that Megawati has not announced her preference perhaps reflects the tug of war in herself.
As a seasoned politician, Megawati will follow both common sense and instinct in selecting a candidate who she thinks will win. In the 2014 election, Megawati only endorsed Jokowi's nomination at the last minute.
Whether Megawati eventually endorses Ganjar or chooses Puan only time will tell, but the sooner she makes up her mind, the more time the party and its machinery can spare to prepare for the presidential election, including forming a solid coalition that can control the House of Representatives. As the party itself has admitted, the PDI-P, although not needing to form a coalition, cannot rely on its own force to contest the race.