The Jakarta Post
The National Mandate Party (PAN) announced on Wednesday that it would join the ruling coalition of President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo, a move expected to improve the government's relationship with the House of Representatives.
PAN chairman Zulkifli Hasan, who is also chairman of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR), said that the decision would create political stability at a time of national economic downturn.
'We unanimously declared to the President that PAN would join [the government]. PAN had previously stated it supported [the government], and now we declare our decision to join the government, to support all government programs for the interests of the nation and the Indonesian people,' Zulkifli told a press conference at the State Palace after a meeting with Jokowi.
Zulkifli was joined by PAN secretary-general Eddy Soeparno, PAN Advisory Council chairman Soetrisno Bachir and Hanura Party chairman Wiranto, who served as mediator in the meeting with Jokowi.
In the same press conference, Jokowi said he welcomed PAN's entry into the ruling coalition, calling it proof of the party's commitment to prioritizing the nation and its people.
'Effective governance is essential today to face the global economic challenges. Amid this challenging situation, I truly appreciate PAN's decision to join the government,' Jokowi said.
Jokowi also invited other political parties to join the ruling coalition.
'I invite everyone to use this occasion to strengthen the spirit of nationalism and unity,' he said.
Having officially declared its support for Jokowi, PAN will add 48 votes to the existing 208 votes secured by the ruling coalition within the legislative institution.
With the fate of the Golkar Party and the United Development Party (PPP) still in the balance given the unresolved internal rifts over the parties' leaderships, PAN's decision to support Jokowi has significantly reduced the power of the opposition Red-and-White Coalition.
The coalition now controls only 113 seats in the House, 73 votes from the Gerindra Party and 40 votes from the Islamic Prosperous Justice Party (PKS). Former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's Democratic Party, meanwhile, has pledged to stay neutral, emphasizing its position as a 'balancing power'.
Zulkifli pledged that PAN's faction at the House would also follow the direction set up by Jokowi's ruling coalition.
'All pro-people government programs will also be the task of our party,' he said.
The ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) welcomed PAN's decision to join the government.
PDI-P secretary-general Hasto Kristiyanto said he was confident that PAN could bring additional legislative support to secure Jokowi's policies and wrest control of the House of Representatives from the opposition camp.
'We have long discussed [PAN joining the government],' Hasto told The Jakarta Post. 'PAN's presence will strengthen consolidation within the government and at the same time positively build the perception that the President is backed by a dominant legislative power.'
Although Zulkifli claimed that all PAN's executives and members, including its senior politicians, endorsed the move, he declined to explain why he had met only with Jokowi, and not PDI-P chairperson Megawati Soekarnoputri.
He also claimed that PAN had unilaterally made the decision without consulting any members of the ruling coalition.
Wiranto, meanwhile, said that political divisions between the ruling and opposition coalitions were no longer relevant now that PAN had joined the government.
'There should be a new paradigm that transforms the two coalitions into a Nusantara Coalition, a coalition of all national components to make steps to ensure the survival of our nation in the challenging global arena,' Wiranto said.
Political communication experts Gun Gun Heryanto and Effendi Gazali said PAN's move was 'predictable' following Jokowi's presence at the party's national congress in May, which resulted in the election of Zulkifli.
The inclusion of PAN in the ruling coalition is widely seen as another step forward by Jokowi in his recent consolidation of his power base.
Following the appointment of his aide Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan as Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister, on Wednesday Jokowi also announced the promotion of former antigraft activist Teten Masduki as Presidential Chief of Staff, replacing Luhut.
Teten is widely seen as another confidant of Jokowi, and was involved in Jokowi's election campaign last year.
In what many deem as Jokowi further testing the water, unconfirmed reports said on Wednesday that the chief of the National Police's detective corps, Comr. Gen. Budi Waseso, would be removed from his position.
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