The Jakarta Post
The country's major political parties have begun to intensify their search for loyal political partners this past week, with presidential candidates Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) and Prabowo Subianto of the Gerindra Party dominating the playing field.
One significant development was the revelation by the National Awakening Party (PKB) that it would support Jokowi's presidential bid. PKB chairman Muhaimin Iskandar said the deal with the PDI-P did not, however, include an agreement to have a PKB member assigned as Jokowi's running mate.
'We have proposed a few figures that the PKB support as potential vice presidential candidates, but we will leave the final decision to the PDI-P and Jokowi,' Muhaimin said in Jombang, East Java.
With the PKB in his camp, Jokowi has emerged a far stronger candidate. The PDI-P, which won the legislative election with 19 percent of the vote, had previously struck a deal with the NasDem Party, which garnered 6.5 percent, making Jokowi the first candidate to secure a presidential ticket. The 2008 Presidential Election Law states that a party or coalition of parties must secure at least 25 percent of the popular vote or 20 percent of House of Representatives seats to be able to nominate a presidential candidate.
Long before the legislative election in April, former vice president Jusuf Kalla, who has been touted as the strongest candidate to become Jokowi's running mate, was among those supported by the PKB as a potential vice presidential candidate, despite Kalla's position as a member of the Golkar Party.
Another candidate proposed by the PKB, former Constitutional Court chief justice Mahfud MD, met with NasDem chairman Surya Paloh on Wednesday. The meeting sparked speculation that Mahfud was trying to win Surya's support to become Jokowi's running mate.
Some sources suggested that PDI-P chairwoman Megawati Soekarnoputri had endorsed Kalla as Jokowi's running mate. She is expected to officially announce the Jokowi-Kalla pairing sometime this week.
A meeting on Saturday between Jokowi and Kalla at the Halim Perdanakusuma Airport in East Jakarta immediately sparked speculation that the pair would indeed contest the presidential election together.
But some politicians have also suggested that Megawati is monitoring the ongoing trial hearings surrounding the 2008 Bank Century bailout, as they could reveal Kalla's alleged role in the affair and potentially tarnish the former vice president's image. Kalla is scheduled to testify at the Jakarta Corruption Court on May 8, while Vice President Boediono is expected to appear in court on May 9.
In an apparent move to win support from the country's Islamic communities, Jokowi took his campaign to cities in Central and East Java over the weekend. Accompanied by politicians from the PDI-P, NasDem and the PKB, Jokowi met with former Muhammadiyah chairman Ahmad Syafii Maarif in Yogyakarta on Saturday. He then flew to Surabaya, East Java, to meet with senior figures from Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the country's largest Islamic organization. He was scheduled to meet key NU figures in Central Java on Sunday.
As for Prabowo, seeing the PKB align itself with his main rival, he must work harder to persuade other political parties to form a coalition with Gerindra. The party, which came third in the legislative election with around 11 percent of the popular vote, has not yet reached any cooperation with other parties.
A similar situation faces Golkar's presidential candidate, Aburizal Bakrie, who is fighting a tighter race for coalition partners. The Hanura Party, which was previously reported to be on the verge of sealing a deal with Golkar, has since claimed to have moved closer to Gerindra.
Gerindra secretary-general Ahmad Muzani suggested that the party was close to securing a deal with two other parties, namely the National Mandate Party (PAN) and the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS).
As coalition deals are being forged, an event on Tuesday surprised many politicians and analysts. Prabowo met Aburizal at the latter's home, raising speculation that the two were mulling joining forces. Analysts suggested that the two men were planning a 'safety measure' in the event of either one failing to secure the necessary partnerships to reach the minimum presidential threshold.
With Golkar winning 14 percent of the vote in the legislative election, its alliance with Gerindra could produce a significant power base, at least statistically. But doubts linger with regard as to who would be named the alliance's presidential candidate.
Golkar politicians said Aburizal should stick to his presidential candidacy mission given Golkar's stronger showing in the legislative election. However, analysts have suggested that it would be more realistic for the two parties if Aburizal became Prabowo's running mate because the former had consistently scored lower than Prabowo in a number of electability surveys.
In a comment made after the meeting, which indicated that Aburizal may well 'downgrade' his presidential ambitions, he said, 'Prabowo may become the presidential candidate and I would be his running mate, or it may be the other way around.'
Although collaboration with Gerindra, if it materializes, would be a significant step toward Aburizal's hopes to secure the presidency, his meeting with Prabowo has exacerbated the existing rift within Golkar. Aburizal, who has braced himself for a possible coup attempt by his party's regional offices and wing organizations, is now facing growing opposition over the idea of his becoming Prabowo's running mate. The heightening turmoil within the party is expected to reach its peak when Golkar holds its national executive meeting, which is slated for mid-May.
The Muslim-based United Development Party (PPP) also made headlines after the party's top executives publicly revealed their personal preferences for different presidential candidates, confirming that their recent internal reconciliation was flimsy.
On Monday, former PPP chairman Hamzah Haz and deputy chairman Suharso Monoarfa visited Megawati to offer their support for Jokowi's presidential nomination. It is believed that Hamzah, who served as Megawati's vice president from 2001 to 2004, can help his party form an alliance with the PDI-P.
Meanwhile, PPP chairman Suryadharma Ali met with dozens of the party's provincial executives on Friday. Suryadharma reportedly asked them to sign letters of agreement on his decision to support Prabowo's presidential bid.
'[There are] various views within the PPP [about presidential endorsement]. However, they are only views; they do not represent the [party's] decision,' Suryadharma said, adding that the PPP would officially announce its presidential endorsement at the party's national leadership meeting on Saturday.
With the PKB no longer a possible partner, the Democratic Party's aim to secure its own coalition is at stake. If PAN's cooperation with Gerindra materializes, and the ongoing turbulence within the PPP results in the party joining Jokowi's camp, the parties left as potential partners for the ruling party will be few in number.
'The Democratic Party's desire to nominate its own presidential candidate now looks unlikely to happen. As for Prabowo, the recent move by the PKB has forced him to accelerate his efforts. Gerindra's failure to secure solid support from the PPP is the kind of error that Prabowo needs to avoid in the future,' political analyst Arya Fernandes said.
PAN executive M. Najib echoed Arya's opinion, saying that his party could run out of patience waiting for Democratic Party chairman President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to declare the party's political path.
The Democratic Party's executive chairman, Syariefuddin Hasan, previously said the party would make clear steps regarding its choice of presidential candidate and coalition partners after May 9, when the party's ongoing presidential convention concludes.
Party infighting is apparently also a problem for Hanura. The party's vice presidential candidate, Hary Tanusudibyo, who also oversees the party's campaign efforts, has been heavily criticized recently. Hanura executive Yuddy Chrisnandi said Hary, a media mogul, was primarily responsible for the party's poor performance in the legislative election, when it garnered only 4.5 percent of the vote.