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Analysis: Ganjar's nomination sets off flurry of political negotiations

Jakarta Post - May 8, 2023

Tenggara Strategics, Jakarta – With the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) settling on Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo as its presidential candidate, the other parties are readjusting their positions with regard to their own nominations ahead of the 2024 elections. Parties that in the past formed alliances to field common candidates are revisiting their positions, and some are contemplating joining the PDI-P in supporting Ganjar's candidacy.

After PDI-P chair Megawati Soekarnoputri announced Ganjar as the party's candidate on April 21, negotiations on forming alliances are taking a more serious tone than they have in the recent past. Party leaders have held meetings, some widely covered by the media, but the real negotiations are taking place behind closed doors.

Ganjar is the only presidential candidate that has secured the presidential ticket. The PDI-P won enough seats in the 2019 legislative elections to have the automatic right to nominate its presidential and vice-presidential candidate. All other parties must pool their House of Representative seats to meet the threshold in fielding candidates.

Two other names already declared as presidential candidates are Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto and former Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan. Their nominations are not 100 percent set as the parties backing them are now engaging in different negotiations. Complicating the matter is the role that President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo plays in all this.

On Tuesday, President Jokowi invited the chairs of six political parties that are part of his coalition government ostensibly for a post-Ramadan dinner, but insiders said they discussed politics, including the presidential election. One idea the president has been mooting is for Ganjar and Prabowo to run on the same ticket, with the defense minister playing second fiddle.

Prabowo has outrightly rejected this proposal, on more than one occasion. After Tuesday's dinner, he told reporters that he would run as president and nothing less. You could hardly blame him. All opinion polls put him as the leading candidate ahead of Ganjar and Anies.

One coalition that has crumbled is the three-member United Indonesian Coalition (KIB) led by the Golkar Party. The Islamist United Development Party (PPP) has already declared it is joining the PDI-P in supporting Ganjar's nomination. The National Mandate Party (PAN) is contemplating following suit but it is hoping that all three join and negotiate with the PDI-P for concessions in return for their support for Ganjar.

Golkar, whose chairman Airlangga Hartarto, is vying for the vice-presidential slot, has not made any commitment, but he is talking to the Prabowo camp.

Prabowo is only too happy to welcome Golkar into his coalition, now consisting of his own Gerindra party and the Nation Awakening Party (PKB). PKB chairman Muhaimin Iskandar has made it a condition in return for his party support that he be picked as running mate. Bringing Golkar into the fold would take the pressures off Prabowo.

What's more

Anies' position is secured for now with the support of the NasDem Party, the Democratic Party and the Islamist Justice Welfare Party (PKS).

NasDem chair Surya Paloh was conspicuously absent at Jokowi's dinner on Tuesday. The party is part of the coalition government, but it is now the main party backing the candidacy of Anies, Jokowi's political nemesis. NasDem has refused to back off despite threats of getting expelled from the government. The party has three ministers in Jokowi's cabinet.

Although Jokowi does not chair a political party, he still has some clout in the run-up to the presidential elections. He commands the loyalty of millions of supporters, who are non-partisan, and will vote for the party and presidential candidate that he endorses. The constitution bars him from running for a third term in office, but his main interest in the 2024 elections is to ensure his successor protects his legacies. This means either Prabowo or Ganjar, but definitely not Anies.

Parties have until Nov. 25 to decide on their nominations for presidential and vice-presidential candidates. So, any coalitions formed today can still change up until then.

With all the presidential slots almost taken by the three names, parties are focusing their attentions on the running-mate positions. Among the most prominent names discussed are West Java Governor Ridwan Kamil, Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Sandiaga Uno, State-Owned Enterprises (SOE) Minister Erick Thohir, Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Mahfud MD, PKB chair Muhaimin, Golkar chair Airlangga and Democratic Party chair Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono. East Java Governor Khofifah Indar Parawansa is the only woman in the field, and even then, her name is barely mentioned compared with the others.

Some of these names have surfaced because of their popularity (Ridwan, Sandiaga, Erick and Mahfud); for their money (Sandiaga and Erick), because they chair a party (Muhaimin, Airlangga, Agus) and Khofifah because she is a woman and hails from East Java, one of the most heatedly contested battlegrounds in past elections.

The running-mate positions are the subject of negotiations between the parties as they form coalitions ahead of the elections. If they cannot get the slot, they would settle for seats in the Cabinet. In this tussling, the PDI-P has the unenviable position of dictating the terms for joining its coalition in supporting Ganjar's candidacy.

For most parties, their main priority is to win as many seats as possible in the national and local legislative elections, which will take place simultaneously with the presidential election on Feb. 14, 2024. Backing the right presidential candidate could boost their electoral chances, and conversely, backing the wrong horse could cost them votes.

The weeks and months ahead will see tough political negotiations between the parties.

What we've heard

President Joko Widodo gathered the chairpersons of government-supporting parties at the State Palace on May 2. He did not invite NasDem Party chairman Surya Paloh, who has declared former Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan as the party's presidential candidate.

Several politicians who were aware of the meeting said that Jokowi and the party bosses discussed coalition options and the candidates to be supported. Among them are the pair of Ganjar Pranowo and Sandiaga Uno, supported by the PDI-P and PPP, as well as the pair of Prabowo Subianto-Erick Thohir, who win support from Gerindra, Golkar, PKB, and PAN. "They will share power if one of the pairs wins," said the source.

Another topic discussed was efforts to weaken the coalition of political parties that support Anies. According to a source, PKB chairman Muhaimin Iskandar and Golkar Party chairman Airlangga Hartarto were assigned to meet with Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY). They lobbied SBY to join the coalition of parties supporting Prabowo. Muhaimin served as a minister under SBY's presidency.

Several sources who know Jokowi's scenario also revealed that Jokowi is trying to push and fully support Prabowo. They said that Jokowi was not happy with the announcement of Ganjar as a presidential candidate of the PDI-P because the Central Java governor is perceived as a party candidate instead of a candidate who is anointed by Jokowi. Therefore, Jokowi encouraged the emergence of other candidates who represent his choice. "Support will be directed toward Prabowo," he said.

[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/2023/05/08/ganjars-nomination-sets-off-flurry-of-political-negotiations.htm