Fikri Harish, Jakarta – In inaugurating a joint secretariat, the Gerindra Party-National Awakening Party (PKB) electoral alliance has moved one step closer to cementing its bid for the presidency in 2024.
After hosting the ribbon cutting ceremony at the secretariat's Jakarta premises on Monday, Gerindra chair Prabowo Subianto and PKB chair Muhaimin Iskandar reiterated the parties' mutual commitment, but they did not announce any candidates.
"Today's inauguration is proof that the cooperation between the two parties is solid, that we both have the same spirit and faith in fighting for the people," said Prabowo.
The defense minister, who confirmed his intention to run in 2024 as Gerindra's presidential candidate last August, described his party as a nationalist party with a religious bent and the PKB as a religious party with a nationalist bent as Muhaimin added that "the two forces complement each other".
Bawono Kumoro, an analyst at pollster Indikator Politik Indonesia, told The Jakarta Post that Monday's inauguration of a joint secretariat showed the growing relationship between the two parties. He also noted that the Gerindra-PKB alliance was at a more advanced stage compared to other alliances, whether existing or potential.
"The new joint secretariat means that this coalition is at the point of no return. Yes, politics is dynamic, but with the two parties' names etched in the joint secretariat, it would be a political embarrassment if either party backed out," said Bawono.
The move marks a turnaround since November, when Muhaimin floated the idea of leaving the alliance if he was not named a vice presidential candidate, which left leaving the alliance's fate hanging in the balance.
At a national ijtima (forum of clerics) organized by the PKB's central executive board last week, the party reaffirmed its decision to back its chairman in 2024 for either the presidency or vice presidency.
Following Monday's ceremony, Gerindra secretary-general Ahmad Muzani said Prabowo would take the results of the PKB's ijtima into consideration.
"Muhaimin delivered the results personally to Prabowo, saying that he hoped Gerindra and PKB could come to a decision by Ramadan," Muzani said as quoted by Kompas.com, referring to the Islamic fasting month that is slated to begin on March 22.
That the Gerindra-PKB alliance did not announce its candidate pair at Monday's event, according to Bawono, showed that Muhaimin had accepted he might not end up being Prabowo's running mate.
"The lack of an announcement means that the two chairmen have come to a gentleman's agreement, and that Gerindra still wants to look at other figures to help Prabowo win in 2024," he said.
Bawono believed that Prabowo was still window-shopping for a running mate with better electability to help rally voters in Central Java and East Java, two major regions he lost in 2019. Forming an alliance with the PKB aimed to remedy some of Gerindra's shortfalls by tapping into the Islamic party's voter base through Nahdlatul Ulama (NU).
Prabowo has also continued to forge closer ties with the country's largest Muslim organization, paying visits and lunching with several senior NU clerics in late December in Surabaya, the capital of East Java, a traditional NU stronghold.
Despite his lofty ambitions, Muhaimin has consistently struggled with a low electability rating. The results of an Indonesian Survey Institute (LSI) poll released in January showed that if the presidential election were held today, only 0.8 percent of the respondents would vote for Muhaimin out of 10 candidates, while 19.4 percent would vote for Prabowo, who placed second for popularity.
Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo, who hails from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), remained the frontrunner of the LSI poll with 29.2 percent, while former Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan, an independent, placed third with 16.5 percent.
Gerindra and PKB together hold 23 percent of the seats in the House of Representatives, so their alliance is eligible to field a presidential candidate as it stands.
At Monday's event, however, Prabowo hinted at the possibility of other parties joining the two-party alliance. "We're certain that in the future, the [joint secretariat's] logo won't be limited to just two parties," he said.
Gerindra deputy chairman Fadli Zon said he would welcome other parties if they wanted to get onboard, including the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), which joined forces with Gerindra in the 2019 election.
"We don't know if [the PKS] will join, but the more the merrier. The important thing is that Gerindra and PKB remain at the helm," Fadli said, as quoted by Tribunnews.com.