Fikri Harish, Jakarta - When the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) suddenly announced its decision to nominate Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo as its presidential candidate on Kartini Day, many of the President's loyal supporters were jubilant.
President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo had, after all, signaled his preference for his fellow PDI-P politician last November, when he said the people should vote for a "white-haired" politician in an apparent reference to the popular governor, according to analysts.
But his statements at the Musyawarah Rakyat (Musri), or people's discussion, where thousands of his most ardent supporters gathered over the weekend, indicate that the President is not yet ready to mobilize his supporters to back a single candidate.
Not just Ganjar
Underlining the importance of grassroots support in the 2024 presidential election, Jokowi promised those gathered that he would personally convey to pro-government parties the preferences of his "volunteers" on who should replace him when he stepped down in October 2024.
Ganjar is on this list, according to the President's supporters, as are Gerindra Party chairman Prabowo Subianto and Golkar Party chairman Airlangga Hartarto.
"Panel Barus gave me the official results, but I haven't opened them yet," President Jokowi said in his speech during the event on Sunday, referring to the chair of the Musra's organizing committee.
"According to the Constitution, only parties or [an alliance] of parties have the right to nominate candidates, so my responsibility is to convey the results to [those] parties that have yet to finalize their [alliances]," he added.
First held in Bandung in Aug. 2022, the President's supporters have held more than 20 similar events across the country as a way for his grassroots supporters to voice their aspirations. The culminating event was Sunday's Musra at the Istora Senayan indoor stadium of the Gelora Bung Karno Sports Complex in Jakarta, where the President's supporters settled on three preferred figures for his successor.
As for the vice presidency, a total of four preferred figures have emerged, including two incumbent Cabinet ministers at the top of their list: Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Mahfud MD and Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Sandiaga Uno.
The other two are members of the President's inner circle: Presidential Chief of Staff Moeldoko and Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin) chairman Arsjad Rasid.
While Mahfud and Sandiaga have regularly appeared in electability surveys on potential running mates, Moeldoko and Arsjad have not received much attention.
"We will deliver those names [...] and we will wait for [the President's] instructions, as the volunteer groups will back whoever Pak [Mr.] Jokowi decides to endorse," Budi Arie Setiadi, chairman of the ProJo supporters' group, told reporters before Jokowi took to the stage on Sunday.
ProJo, among the more prominent of Jokowi's self-styled "volunteer groups", was the main organizer of the Musra.
Airlangga's inclusion on the list of potential successors drawn up by the President's supporters is surprising. Opinion polls so far have pegged Ganjar and Prabowo as the two presidential frontrunners, along with opposition figure Anies Baswedan, who has the backing of the NasDem Party.
Golkar has maintained that it is still backing Airlangga for president, but public support for the Coordinating Economics Minister lags far behind both Ganjar and Prabowo.
In the results of a Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting (SMRC) survey released on Saturday, the pollster found that only 1.7 percent of respondents said they would vote for Airlangga if the election were held today. Ganjar and Prabowo were ahead with respectively 38.1 percent and 31.3 percent, followed by Anies with 19.4 percent.
"From March 2022 until today, support for Ganjar continues to rise while Prabowo has been more or less stable. Meanwhile, Anies' electability rating has declined, while Airlangga remains uncompetitive," SMRC political researcher Deni Irvani said on Saturday.
Given the importance of the 2024 presidential election in setting Indonesia's course into the next decade, President Jokowi has advised his supporters to exercise caution in casting their votes.
"If we elect the wrong leader for the next 13 years, we're going to lose the opportunity to become a developed country," he said.
Opposition parties have criticized Jokowi's remark about personally conveying his supporters' aspirations, saying that it was inappropriate for a sitting President to influence the electoral process.
"The President's job is to ensure that the election is conducted democratically," said Democratic Party spokesman Herzaky Mahendra.
Herzaky also called on the President to follow in the footsteps of his predecessors, Megawati Soekarnoputri and Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who demonstrated their statesmanship by refraining from meddling in the elections near the end of their terms. (ahw)