With local elections, 2018, mostly done and dusted, eyes are now turned to presidential and general elections, 2019. The 2019 elections in Indonesia will be the first to be see concurrent legislative and presidential elections since direct elections for the presidency was instituted in 2004. The Constitutional Court ruled in 2014 that sequential timing of these legislative and presidential elections was unconstitutional; notwithstanding, on July 20, 2017, the House passed the bill to maintain party thresholds for nomination of presidential candidates; the new law, which mostly follows the previous law, stipulates that only parties or coalitions with at least 20 percent of the seats in the legislature or 25 percent of the popular vote are able to nominate presidential candidate. To account for the concurrent elections, the new law bases the threshold on the outcome of the 2014 legislative elections, which effectively sets the stage for a rematch between the 2014 presidential contestants, Prabowo Subianto, former general and current chair of the Gerindra Party, and President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo. In the following, I trace political alliances since the 2014 presidential elections to show how the political chips are aligning ahead of the 2019 elections.
The 2014 legislative elections saw 10 parties elected into the lower house of the bicameral legislature. The results for that election were surprising in at least one aspect: no parties achieved the level of popular support needed to run independently for the presidential election in July. Given the nomination threshold, intense jockeying proceeded; these became more heated with contentious challenges against the initial quickcount results following the presidential elections in July 2014. By the time of the presidential inauguration in October, the lines were drawn: as Table 1 below shows, three parties fell into the President’s coalition, the Awesome coalition, while six parties that formed a majority comprised the opposition coalition, the Red-and-White coalition. In the course of year after the presidential election, the Red-and-White coalition posed some real impediments to the president’s agenda; at the same time, however, political parties started to peel away from the opposition coalition. By January 2016, only two parties remained in the Red-and-White opposition coalition: the Gerindra Party and the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS); meanwhile, the President’s coalition had grown from a minority of 207 seats to a majority of 386 seats.
Table 1: Indonesian Parties in the Legislature and allegiances between 2014 and 2018
|Party||2014 election results (percent votes won)||2014 allegiance (in October 2014)||2016 allegiances
(in January 2016)
|2018 allegiance (as of September)|
|PDI-P (Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, presidential nominee President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo)||19||Awesome coalition (President’s coalition)||Awesome coalition (President’s coalition)|
|Nasdem Party (National Democrat Party)
|6.6||Awesome coalition (President’s coalition)||Awesome coalition (President’s coalition)|
|Hanura (People’s Conscience party formed in 2006)
|3.2||Awesome coalition (President’s coalition)||Awesome coalition (President’s coalition)|
|Gerindra (Party Movement Indonesia Raya, presidential nominee is founder Prabowo Subianto)
|12||Red-and-white coalition (opposition coalition||Red-and-white coalition (opposition coalition|
|Golkar (leading party of the Suharto era)
|14.9||Red-and-white coalition (opposition coalition||Awesome coalition (President’s coalition)||Awesome coalition (President’s coalition)|
|PAN (National Mandate Party) *
|7.7||Red-and-white coalition (opposition coalition||Awesome coalition (President’s coalition)||Red-and-white coalition (opposition coalition|
|PKB (National Awakening Party) *
|9||Red-and-white coalition (opposition coalition||Awesome coalition (President’s coalition)||Awesome coalition (President’s coalition)|
|PPP (United Development Party) *
|6.3||Red-and-white coalition (opposition coalition||Awesome coalition (President’s coalition)||Awesome coalition (President’s coalition)|
|PKS (Prosperous Justice Party) *
|7||Red-and-white coalition (opposition coalition||Red-and-white coalition (opposition coalition|
|Democratic Party (PD, President Dr. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono)
|10||Opposition||Opposition||In talks with Red-and-white coalition|
* Islamic parties
Notwithstanding the President’s majority legislative support, and even though public approval for the President remains at a majority and well ahead of his rival, political turns in the country in 2017 and 2018 suggest weaknesses in the political system or President Jokowi that rivals will exploit.
Foremost among this is religion: religion was used successfully as a strategy to divide the popular vote in the Jakarta gubernatorial elections in 2017, and led to the conviction of former and highly popular governor, Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, for blasphemy in that highly religiously-charged race. The social media campaign, #2019GantiPresiden (#2019ChangePresident) campaign, initiated by the PKS party in early 2018, echoes the anti-Ahok campaign where opposition was aimed at undermining the incumbent candidate rather than providing viable alternatives.
President Jokowi has responded by picking Ma’ruf Amin, chairman of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), the country’s top Muslim clerical body that comprises all registered Muslim organizations. While Ma’ruf’s religious standing strengthens considerably the President’s position in the Muslim community, his convictions are also fiercely orthodox. Indeed, as the chairman of the MUI, Ma’ruf signed a document recommending that the statement Ahok made be considered “blasphemous” for insulting Islam, and he advocates for the criminalization of gay sex.
Meanwhile, Prabowo has officially entered the presidential race with Jakarta Deputy Governor Sandiaga Uno, also of the Gerindra Party, as his running mate. Prabowo has been courting the Democratic Party to enhance popular, if not legislative support: polls show the candidate at a distinct disadvantage against President Jokowi this time around. While former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has yet to commit his support for the pair, he has gone so far as to make clear that his relations with PDI-P’s chair, former President Megawati, impedes any coalition with the President.
Clearly, elections in this third largest democracy in the world, then, remains one to keep watch.
 Yap, O. Fiona. 2014. “Indonesia – Preliminary Results of the April 2014 Legislative Elections.” https://presidential-power.com/?p=1054 April 11, 2014 <accessed 3 September 2018>
 Yap, O. Fiona. 2017. “Indonesia – The Jakarta Gubernatorial Election, Politics, and the 2019 Presidential Elections.” https://presidential-power.com/?p=6369 April 27, 2017 <accessed 3 September 2018>