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Airlangga's presidential bid treads a thorny path

Jakarta Globe - May 15, 2023

Heru Andriyanto, Jakarta – Golkar Party sent a signal on Sunday that party chairman Airlangga Hartarto will contest the 2024 presidential election despite its failure to reach the threshold of 20 percent of House of Representatives seats to put a candidate on the ballot on its own.

Golkar needs to build a coalition to meet the threshold but the immediate outlook remains bleak.

The indication that Airlangga will run for president, or at least as a running mate, was noticeable from his absence from the list of 580 House candidates the party registered with the General Election Commission, or KPU, on Sunday evening.

The chief economic minister is aiming for a bigger reward than a lawmaker, Golkar Deputy Chairman Ahmad Doli Kurnia told reporters at the KPU building in Jakarta. "Mr. Airlangga has been nominated as our presidential candidate," Ahmad said.

Another reason for his exclusion from the list of House candidates is to allow Airlangga to focus on his job in the President Joko Widodo cabinet, Ahmad added.

On paper, with 14.78 percent of House seats, Golkar needs to team up with just one more party to nominate Airlangga.

But his desperate attempts to forge a meaningful coalition didn't deliver concrete results with only five months left before all presidential candidates must register themselves with the KPU.

Golkar has since last year established an alliance with the National Mandate Party (PAN) and the United Development Party (PPP).

The loose alliance is already on shaky ground after the PPP joined the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) in nominating Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo for president.

Airlangga cannot rely on PAN either, especially after PAN Chairman Zulkifli Hasan said he would support the pairing of Ganjar and State-Owned Enterprise Minister Erick Thohir as his running mate.

Airlangga then held a closed-door meeting with the leaders of the Democratic Party, which already joined a coalition to support the candidacy of former Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan.

He also met with Muhaimin Iskandar, the chairman of the National Awakening Party (PKB), which is already tied to a coalition with the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) and jointly nominates Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto for president.

Even if Golkar managed to form a new coalition with the Democratic Party or the PKB, Airlangga still needs to deal with the damning reality of his slim chance to win the presidential office. In most pre-election polls by credible institutions, Airlangga's electability remains below 5 percent.

But a political analyst said Airlangga is doing what the party needs him to do – he must ensure that the third-largest party in the House will not get away with nothing post the presidential and legislative elections next year.

"Building network and safety net is very useful [to add the bargaining power] during pre-election negotiations to finalize the coalition and during post-election negotiations on power sharing whether or not the coalition wins," said Sirojudin Abbas, the executive director of Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting.

Source: https://jakartaglobe.id/news/airlanggas-presidential-bid-treads-a-thorny-pat