Megawati paves way for Jokowi
Margareth S. Aritonang
The Jakarta Post
Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) chairwoman Megawati Soekarnoputri has hinted that she will not run for president for a third time and would instead endorse younger politicians, including Jakarta Governor Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo, taking the stage in the 2014 presidential election.
Party executive Puan Maharani, who is also Megawati's daughter, said that the party had consistently nominated younger politicians in regional elections and would likely use the same strategy at the national level.
'If a potential young candidate is available to be nominated [for the presidential poll], why not?' said Puan on the sidelines of a House plenary meeting on Tuesday. 'Of course Bu Mega wants regeneration to take place in the PDI-P,' she added.
The largest opposition party has yet to nominate a presidential candidate, saying that the decision rested in the hands of Megawati, who remains a powerful figure within the nationalist party and is still seen as a potential presidential candidate by several pollsters despite her defeats in the past two direct elections.
This is the first time that Megawati has suggested the party was open to nominating a candidate other than herself.
The suggestion came as various surveys have found that Jokowi, a rising star in national politics, is far more popular than Megawati and that he would gain the most votes if the election were held today.
Party chief patron Taufiq Kiemas, who has openly asked Megawati, his wife, to call time on her presidential ambitions, said the party could nominate any of several of its younger members for the upcoming poll. 'PDI-P has so many [potential] presidential candidates,' Taufiq, who chairs the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR), said recently.
Other than Jokowi, Puan and House deputy speaker Pramono Anung have also been tipped by several observers as potential presidential candidates. But Jokowi has proven to be most electable.
A recent opinion poll by Jakarta-based think tank the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), for example, found that if the election were to take place today, Jokowi would get 28.6 percent of the vote, ahead of the Great Indonesia Movement (Gerindra) Party chief patron Lt. Gen. (ret) Prabowo Subianto with 15.6 percent, Golkar Party chairman Aburizal Bakrie with 7 percent and Megawati with 5.4 percent.
A study by the Pol-Tracking Institute last month also cited Jokowi as the most popular presidential hopeful due to the negative media coverage of most established party political figures.
Arya Fernandez, a political analyst from Charta Politika, said that Megawati should have realized long ago that Jokowi was the one who would be able to win the presidential race.
'However, Megawati was waiting until Jokowi's electability reached at least 40 percent. At that level,
Megawati and the PDI-P would be convinced that there would be no way Jokowi would lose should he enter the presidential race,' Arya said.
If Jokowi's electability was even higher, it would also be possible to see Puan being paired with him as his vice presidential candidate.
Jokowi has refused to comment on the surveys that have placed him at the top of the list of presidential candidates, saying that he is now focusing on his job as Jakarta governor. Recently, the governor faced an impeachment threat from several councillors over problems regarding his universal healthcare scheme.
'Jokowi's reluctance to comment on his presidential bid is actually part of his political strategy. First, he is yet to receive a green light from Megawati. Second, he is still examining people's opinions of his bid, because many still demand that Jokowi finish his tenure in the Jakarta administration before running for president,' Arya said.
Philips J. Vermonte of the CSIS said over the weekend that the public was yearning for an alternative to the same old faces in the presidential election.
He argued that Jokowi's success had shown that it was possible to have an alternative candidate. 'It would be so unfortunate if PDI-P did not nominate Jokowi,' he said.
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