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Easy win for Ganjar in Central Java?

  • Margareth S. Aritonang
    Margareth S. Aritonang

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta | Wed, June 27, 2018 | 07:58 am
Easy win for Ganjar in Central Java? Get ready: Central Java gubernatorial candidate pairs Ganjar Pranowo (left) - Taj Yasin (second left) and Sudirman Said (second right) - Ida Fauziyah (right) get prepared to respond queries during the last candidate debate in Semarang, Central Java, on June 21. (JP/Suherdjoko)

For the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), everything seems to be going so easy in Central Java, its traditional stronghold.

With only a few days to go before the regional elections, various pollsters seem to agree on one thing about the province’s gubernatorial race: that incumbent candidate Governor Ganjar Pranowo and his running mate Taj Yasin Maimoen would easily beat their challengers, Sudirman Said and running mate Ida Fauziyah.

Surveys conducted by different pollsters have shown that the Ganjar-Taj Yasin pair’s electability has steadily increased to almost 70 percent approaching June 27, when Central Java voters will choose who they trust to lead the province for the next five years.

A survey by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) released last month, for example, showed that Ganjar-Taj Yasin pair’s electability reached 66.5 percent, while Sudirman-Ida’s was only at 14.8 percent. Another survey, released by Indo Barometer, showed similar results, with Ganjar expected to get 67.3 percent of votes, leaving his rival Sudirman with 21.1 percent.

This could be a victory for President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, a member of the PDI-P, and a loss to Gerindra, who backed Sudirman, along with its two traditional allies, the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and the National Mandate Party (PAN), and one unlikely ally, the National Awakening Party (PKB).

Here is what you need to know about the election in Central Java.

Stronghold for nationalist parties

Central Java has long been known as the traditional stronghold for nationalist parties, in particular the PDI-P. The province is one of the strongholds of the ruling party, in addition to Bali.

The PDI-P has won all legislative elections in the province since 1999 thanks to the party’s loyalist voters in the area. The party finished first in the province’s legislative election in 2009, securing 22.98 percent of votes. In 2014, the PDI-P secured 31 out of the total 100 seats at the local legislative council, while the rest was distributed among the other nine parties.

Central Java has the third-largest number of eligible voters after West Java and East Java. It comprised 14.52 percent of voters in 2014 election, while West Java contributed 17.57 percent and East Java 16.29 percent.

The PDI-P's grip over the province will thus determine the fate of the party in next year's legislative election as well as Jokowi’s, who has been named a presidential candidate by the party. 

Sudirman faces tough competition

Ganjar has led Central Java since 2013. Prior to his gubernatorial role, Ganjar was a member of the House of Representatives, representing his electoral district of Central Java for two periods, 2004-2009 and 2009-2014.

Like Ganjar, his running mate Taj Yasin is also a politician. He was a member of the Central Java Legislative Council (DPRD), representing his party, the Islam-based United Development Party (PPP). He is the son of influential and respected cleric Maimoen Zubair, who is also known as a PPP advisor.

The Ganjar-Taj Yasin ticket is supported by a coalition of four political parties: the PDI-P, PPP, the Golkar Party, the Democratic Party and the NasDem Party. All but the Democratic Party are supporters of the Jokowi administration.

This coalition has secured the majority of 58 seats at the Legislative Council, which has given the pair strong political backup in the region. The coalition would thus control the Legislative Council should Ganjar and Taj Yasin win the upcoming election, which will also grant them support to run their policies.

Their rival candidate pair, the Sudirman-Ida ticket, has the backing of four political parties: the Gerindra Party, the PKS, the PKB and PAN. The coalition secured 38 seats at the Legislative Council.

It is believed that that coalition’s decision to endorse Sudirman as Ganjar’s contender was made at the 11th hour, allegedly due to Sudirman’s poor electability compared to Ganjar.

However, while it is the first time for Sudirman to contest an election, he is no political novice. The former energy and mineral resources minister triggered controversy in 2015 when he revealed that former House chairman and corruption convict Setya Novanto allegedly asked mining company Freeport Indonesia for 20 percent of its shares on behalf of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and Vice President Jusuf Kalla, as a condition of having its lucrative mining contract extended in 2021.

Meanwhile, his running mate Ida is a PKB politician and former lawmaker, who used to lead the PKB faction at the House. She led the House Commission VIII on religion and social affairs from 2012 to 2014. She was also a former leader of one of the women’s wings of Indonesia’s largest Muslim organization Nahdatul Ulama (NU), the Muslimat NU.

Ida, whose appointment as Sudirman’s running mate could be the primary, if not the only reason the PKB is backing Gerindra’s gubernatorial candidate, is expected to help Sudirman get the votes from NU cadres in the province. But she appears to have been outshined by Taj, who is also an NU figure.

Graft investigation into Ganjar

The high-profile investigation by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) into alleged graft surrounding the procurement of e-ID cards has put Ganjar's name in the spotlight.  

Ganjar has been accused of swindling U$25,000 from the project when he was a member of House Commission II overseeing local administrations, which was in charge of deliberating the procurement process. 

However, he has played down allegations that he was involved in the scandal, which resulted in Rp 2 trillion ($ 141 million) in state loses, claiming that he was innocent.

Despite the controversy, Ganjar's electability has continuously increased to reach 66.9 percent, according to a recent study by Indo Barometer, making his control over Central Java almost unstoppable.  

"The e-ID case doesn't damage his popularity and electability in Central Java," said Indo Barometer's executive chairman M. Qodari upon releasing the results of the survey.

Qodari explained that local support remained high as Ganjar was well-known as a friendly and populist leader.

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