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Analysis: Searching for running mates for Prabowo, Ganjar and Anies

Jakarta Post - May 22, 2023

Tenggara Strategics, Jakarta – With registration for the 2024 presidential and vice presidential candidates opening soon, Prabowo Subianto, Anies Baswedan and Ganjar Pranowo, the only figures with a realistic chance of winning the highest office, remain in search of their running mates. Potential names have been listed, though in the end, each will only choose a partner that can help them win.

Prabowo, who was declared as Gerindra Party's sole candidate in August last year, said he wanted a tandem who was dedicated to the people of Indonesia and held a strong commitment to the country, state ideology Pancasila, the Constitution and the national motto of Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (unity in diversity). Moreover, as shown in surveys, his vice-presidential candidate must have integrity and a high electability rating.

Whereas Anies, who was officially endorsed by the NasDem Party in October, stated that he wished his running mate to be able to contribute to their victory through their high electability and low political vulnerability, have the ability to strengthen and maintain coalition stability, help run effective governance management and display a commitment to building togetherness as a harmonious duo.

Ganjar on the other hand, nominated by the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), is looking for a running mate who shares the same vision.

Despite each of the presidential candidates holding individual preferences for their VP pick, it is interesting to note that the circulated potential names of the running mates have overlapped across the three candidates. The names have included, among others, East Java Governor Khofifah Indar Parawansa, Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Mahfud MD, State-Owned Enterprises (SOE) Minister Erick Thohir, Coordinating Economics Minister Airlangga Hartarto and National Awakening Party (PKB) chairman Muhaimin Iskandar.

Other names that have been thrown in the mix are Democratic Party chairman Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, West Java Governor Ridwan Kamil and Yenny Wahid, the daughter of former president and Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) leader Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid.

Take the case of Mahfud, for instance, who has garnered public support in recent months. According to political observers, Mahfud's popularity is attributed to his bold response to major issues that have gained public attention, such as the alleged mega-corruption at the Finance Ministry and the Ferdy Sambo case. Mahfud's NU background is also said to give him the edge, along with his East Java upbringing. With East Java seen as the "decisive battleground", Mahfud's presence may possibly rally voters behind him and his presidential candidate. However, the minister has openly refused to support Anies in the race.

Muhaimin is also one to note. According to a survey by Charta Politika, the PKB chairman's electability as vice president ranks third behind Erick and Khofifah, respectively. Another survey by PolMark Indonesia showed that in East Java, Muhaimin's electability as vice president ranks first with 11.5 percent.

The PKB chairman's role is particularly considerable for Prabowo as the two have signed an agreement through their parties' Great Indonesia Awakening Coalition (KIR) and have voiced that the final decision for the alliance's presidential and vice presidential candidate would lay in their hands. Muhaimin has been touted as a potential running mate for both Prabowo and Ganjar, and just recently, the chairman was seen embarking on a "political safari" visiting a number of vice presidents, including current vice president Ma'ruf Amin and former vice president Hamzah Haz.

What's more

Ultimately, selecting a vice presidential candidate that can strategically help the running pair win the race is key, especially taking into consideration the significance of NU voters and East Java voters in the upcoming election.

NU voters have been sought after due to the group's standing as the largest Muslim organization in Indonesia and based on a survey by Litbang Kompas, the research arm of Kompas daily, the choices of the NU mass tend to reflect the national preferences. As a result, more than one potential running mate of the three presidential candidates are known NU figures, such as Khofifah, Yenny Wahid and Erick, who is linked to the NU's youth wing Ansor.

Moreover, the presidential candidates are eyeing East Java to secure their victory. As exhibited by the 2014 and 2019 elections, East Java has determined the winning pair. Therefore, it is important for the presidential candidates to carefully choose a running mate who can truly represent the voting power in East Java.

What we've heard

The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) is currently looking for a running mate for its presidential candidate Ganjar Pranowo. President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has proposed Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Sandiaga Uno and State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) Minister Erick Thohir, but a source close to Jokowi said PDI-P matriarch Megawati has rejected Jokowi's proposal to pair Ganjar with Sandiaga and Erick.

"Megawati does not want a young vice presidential candidate," said the source. Megawati has decided that the candidate to accompany Ganjar should be free from ambitions to become a presidential candidate in 2029 – which therefore will pit them against Ganjar. The source mentioned that Sandiaga and Erick are feared to hide such an ambition.

Besides the age factor, Erick's relationship with PDI-P had worsened following the FIFA U-20 World Cup fiasco. According to sources within the PDI-P, they suspect that Erick took advantage of PDI-P's anti-Israel sentiment in the event to boost his popularity. Additionally, the source mentioned that Erick has built a narrative claiming that he saved Indonesian soccer from FIFA sanctions after the public blamed the PDI-P for Indonesia's loss of right to host the tournament.

Megawati is said to have implemented a strategy in the last two presidential elections, being that the party's chosen vice president is a senior figure from the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) who does not aspire to become a presidential candidate. This strategy proved successful when Jokowi partnered with Jusuf Kalla and later with Ma'ruf Amin. Through a source close to Megawati, the PDI-P chairwoman is said to have identified four NU figures and made approaches to them.

They are Ma'ruf Amin, NU leader Miftachul Akhyar, Mustasyar chairman Musthofa Bisri, and Muhammad Luthfi Yahya, who is currently a member of the President's Advisory Council. "Musthofa Bisri has already declined, leaving three names as options," said the source. Recently, NU senior figure and grand imam of Jakarta's Istiqlal Mosque Nasaruddin Umar entered the running as a potential vice president for Ganjar.

Megawati's maneuver regarding Ganjar's vice presidential candidate has caused Sandiaga to hesitate in joining the United Development Party (PPP). Sandiaga believes that there is no certainty from PDI-P regarding his position as Ganjar's running mate if he joins PPP. As a result, Sandiaga is currently attempting to approach the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and explore the possibility of becoming a running mate for Anies Baswedan. Another source mentioned that Sandiaga's maneuver to approach the PKS has also caused PDI-P to reconsider pairing him with Ganjar. "In terms of ideology, PDI-P and PKS do not align," said the source.

[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/2023/05/22/analysis-searching-for-running-mates-for-prabowo-ganjar-and-anies.htm