The Jakarta Post
It is less than a month before election day, yet the Democratic Party is still preoccupied with its own targets for the legislative election while not doing much for its presidential ticket Prabowo Subianto-Sandiaga Uno.
At the end of last year, party chairman Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono admitted that his party was prioritizing the legislative election to secure as many legislative seats as possible, but then pledged to start campaigning for Prabowo in March this year.
However, no action has proven that the party would give its all for Prabowo, even worse, Yudhoyono withdrew himself from the April legislative and presidential elections after his wife, Ani, was diagnosed with leukemia.
Yudhoyono has decided to accompany his wife, who is receiving intensive medical treatment in Singapore, and handed over command of the party for the election campaigns to his eldest son, Agus Harimurti.
In his capacity as the leader of the party’s Joint Command (Kogasma) for the 2019 elections, Agus led on Saturday his first consolidation meeting with the party’s central board executives and representatives from all provincial chapters.
“I am ready to lead the party to win the legislative election,” Agus said.
While in the 2014 election the party secured 10.19 percent of the vote in the legislative election, Agus said he targeted to achieve more this year. During the meeting, however, he said nothing about the Prabowo-Sandiaga campaign.
Democrat secretary-general Hinca Pandjaitan said the party had already sent several senior members to work with Prabowo’s campaign team, and he considered that it was more than enough.
“We’ve already assigned several party members to the team. We shouldn’t intervene in the work [of the presidential campaign team] anymore. [Yudhoyono’s mandate] is only about the legislative election,” Hinca said.
Agus gave a speech on Friday after receiving a mandate from his father to take over the party’s command to lead the election campaigns.
The former Army officer talked more about the future of the political party that his father and the whole family had built and run. He said the current concurrent legislative and presidential elections had divided political parties and voters behind the two presidential tickets — Prabowo-Sandiaga and incumbent President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo-Ma’ruf Amin.
The system, said Agus, has disadvantaged medium-sized parties like the Democrats, which do not have any of its members as presidential and vice presidential candidates. The medium-sized parties had to fight fiercely in the legislative election because they would not receive any coattail effect from the candidates running in the presidential election.
He did convey the party’s aspirations to “the next president” but did not specifically name the presidential ticket that the party was supporting.
Democrat deputy secretary-general Renanda Bachtar told The Jakarta Post that Agus’ speech was not for the presidential campaign. “It was more about strengthening the party’s internal consolidation,” Renanda said.
The Democrats have been criticized for showing less interest in supporting Prabowo-Sandiaga despite officially endorsing them.
After Agus failed to secure a vice presidential ticket from both Prabowo and Jokowi, the Democrats seemed to lose appetite in supporting the candidates and instead campaigned for themselves while carrying the image of Yudhoyono, who led the country for 10 years.
Many political observers saw that the Democrats only supported Prabowo, who is also Gerindra Party chairman, because the party had no other option. The current regulation stipulates that if a party does not join any coalition to endorse a presidential candidate, it will not be allowed to join the presidential race in 2024. In fact, Yudhoyono is said to be preparing Agus to contest in the 2024 presidential race.
Separately, Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) secretary-general Hasto Kristiyanto of the Jokowi camp also questioned the absence of Prabowo-Sandiaga endorsement in Agus’ speech.
“Maybe there are some aspirations from the Democrats that are not accommodated by the [Prabowo-Sandiaga] pair,” said Hasto.
Gerindra deputy chairman Fadli Zon dismissed the criticisms against the Dems, saying it was not a big deal that Prabowo and Sandiaga were not mentioned in Agus’ speech. He believed that the Dems’ support was solid for Prabowo.
“They’re currently focusing on their internal affairs. It doesn’t matter because they’ve already declared support for us [Prabowo-Sandiaga]. I think the party’s stance is clear,” Fadli said.