Tag Archives: Prabowo Subianto

Indonesia – The Old is New Again? Nomination Thresholds for Presidential Candidates

Like most emergent democracies, Indonesia saw a proliferation of political parties and interest groups following democratization even as the country was restructuring its representative institutions, the House of Representatives (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat, DPR), and the People’s Representatives Council (Dewan Perwakilan Daerah, DPD), into fully elected ones. To control the surge of candidates and parties standing for elections and the subsequent legislative fragmentation, Presidential Election Law, Law No. 42/2008, was passed in 2008 to govern the nomination and election of presidential candidates, while Election Law No. 8, was passed in 2012, to regulate how political parties may stand for legislative elections. Thus, the constraints of Election Law No. 8 included limiting political parties that may contest elections to only those who obtained a threshold of 3.5 percent of the national votes from the previous election.[1]

Perhaps of greater interest is the Presidential Election Law, which limited presidential nominations to parties that received 25 percent of the national vote or 20 percent of the parliamentary seats. To ensure that the thresholds are met, the Presidential Election Law also stipulated that elections for legislative and presidential elections be held at least three months apart. In the following, I track the recent ups and downs of the Presidential Election Law. Briefly, on January 24, 2014, the Constitutional Court ruled that the sequencing of elections under the Presidential Election Law violated the constitution and ruled that legislative and presidential elections be held concurrently; however, the Court also left to the legislature to decide if the thresholds would remain. That was decided on July 20, 2017, when the House passed a bill maintaining the thresholds for the presidential elections in 2019.

The Presidential Election Law was challenged at the Constitutional Court in 2013, on the grounds that the Presidential Election law encouraged horse-trading among political parties rather than foster the discipline that underpins responsive or responsible policymaking. If the 2014 elections are any guide, that assessment is not far off-base. Specifically, no parties in the April legislative elections achieved the level of popular support needed to field independently a nominee for the presidential election in July, and that is with a highly popular candidate, then-governor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo. Then-governor Jokowi was so popular that legislative candidates from other political parties used ads featuring the governor.

The resultant legislative results, then, took many by surprise: although the “Jokowi” factor kept the then-governor’s party, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), in the lead, it captured only 19 percent of the popular vote, well short of expectations. It meant that the PDI-P needed to form a coalition with partners in order to nominate a presidential candidate for the July elections, as would others. Unsurprisingly, the political jockeying for coalition-partners and the winnable president-vice president team began even before official results were announced. Two nominees emerged: Jokowi and Prabowo Subianto. Jokowi would go on to win the presidential elections, but that win did not stall the opposition coalition.

Indeed, events that followed were concerning for political developments in Indonesia. In particular, clear lines from the political jockeying carried through in the legislature; by the time of the President’s inauguration in October, 2014, the President’s coalition was in the minority. As a result, the President’s agenda was tested and several prominent positions – including House Speaker and Speaker of the People’s Consultative Assembly – went to the opposition majority coalition.[2] Fortunately for President Jokowi, several reversals occurred over time, so that by January 2016, the Gerindra party of Prabowo Subianto looked like it may be the only party remaining in the erstwhile majority Red-and-White coalition.

President Jokowi has kept a firm majority in the legislature since, so that it is probably not surprising that he championed the proposal to maintain the thresholds. Prabowo Subianto has also maintained a firm interest in politics, and he advocated for the elimination of nomination thresholds. Prabowo and his Gerindra Party have played a decisive – and ultimately victorious – role in the recent gubernatorial election in the capital city of Jakarta, and he is widely expected to use that win as springboard for a 2019 presidential run.

With the thresholds in place, minor party candidates definitely have their work cut out for them. Threshold or not, Jokowi and Prabowo look set to compete again for the presidency in 2019.

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[1] For additional conditions, see Yap, O. Fiona, 2014. “Indonesia – The 2014 Elections: Political parties and Presidential nominees.” Presidential Power, http://presidential-power.com/?p=643 <Accessed 26 July 2017>

[2] Yap, O. Fiona, 2015. “Indonesia – The President, Awesome Indonesia, and the Red-White Opposition.” Presidential Power, http://presidential-power.com/?p=3084 <Accessed 26 July 2017>

 

Indonesia – The Jakarta Gubernatorial Election, Politics, and the 2019 Presidential Elections

Elections in the capital cities of Asia are often seen as bellwethers for national elections, and elections in Jakarta, Indonesia, are no exception. Still, there is reason to consider the 2017 gubernatorial elections in Jakarta as deserving of particular attention. For one, the incumbent candidate, Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, was a highly popular governor who took over the mantle from a highly popular predecessor, Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, when the latter won the presidential elections in 2014. Both men are considered to break political traditions, so that their respective popularities underpinned hope for wide support of political change. The electoral defeat of Ahok, then, by former education minister, Anies Baswedan, may have dimmed those hopes. In the following, I discuss how this gubernatorial election may foreshadow politics and the 2019 presidential elections in Indonesia.

It is notable that Ahok and Anies are each backed by political opponents at the national level. Ahok is supported by the Indonesia Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), of which President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo is a member and former President Megawati Sukarnoputri is chair. Anies was previously a supporter of President Jokowi, and served as his education minister between 2014-2016; however, in the 2017 contest, he drew support from the legislative opposition, namely the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra), whose chair, Prabowo Subianto, was defeated in the 2014 presidential elections, and the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), an Islamic party. Many will remember the 2014 presidential elections as a hard-fought contest, with Prabowo initially refusing to concede on the quickcount results, and subsequently coalescing the Red-White majority opposition coalition to stymie the agenda of the elected President. Several of the parties in that opposition coalition has since jumped ship join the President’s Awesome Indonesia Coalition; as of May 2016, only Gerindra and PKS remains in the coalition. Political parties are already readying up for the 2019 elections – Golkar has announced its support for the President Jokowi – and there is no mistaking Prabowo’s interest in that election. Anies’ successful election as governor may help Prabowo’s plans, and it is not a stretch for Prabowo to run with a similar strategy, i.e., divide the popular vote over religion. Anies himself sought the support of Islamist groups, including militant groups such as the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), known for hard-line stances and attacks against minorities.

The religious cleavage was thrown open in this election: the aggressive effort to charge Ahok with blasphemy against Islam, together with regular reminders of the potential for unrest in a series of protests and rallies against the Chinese Christian governor, led to the significant erosion of Ahok’s huge polling lead. The long and slow trial ended only following the election, with prosecutors dropping the blasphemy charges against Ahok for a lesser charge that carries a possible two-year probation. The damage to Ahok is eclipsed only by the damage to Indonesian politics: home to the world’s largest Muslim population, the election may have witnessed Indonesia’s democratic trajectory sidelined by aggressive hardline tactics used to unseat a popular, successful, non-Islam governor. That does not bode well for the 2019 elections.

Indonesia – With preliminary results now in, what lies ahead?

The General Election Commission (KPU) announced recently that the need for the revotes in over 1000 polling stations may delay the official results for the legislative elections, held April 9, 2014, original pegged for May 9. Nevertheless, even without the official results, political jockeying between the parties for coalition-partners and the winnable president-vice president team has commenced, and these may be as intense as the finger-pointing and blame-game that has taken place following the quick count results.

What coalitions are possible and which improbable? Coalitions are necessary given that the quick-count results show none of the parties has received the requisite 25 percent of the national vote or 20 percent of the parliamentary seats to field independently a presidential candidate for the July elections. The top three vote-getters based on the quick-count results are the PDI-P, Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, leading with about 19 percent of the popular vote; Golkar with 14.9 percent; and Gerindra with 12 percent. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party edged into the double-digit league with 10 percent of the votes.

The top three parties have all announced their presidential candidates:

  • Jakarta governor, Joko “Jokowi” Widodo for the PDI-P;
  • Aburizal Bakrie, business tycoon, for Golkar, the leading party of the Suharto era;
  • Prabowo Subianto, former military lieutenant-general, for Gerindra

Coalition-partners, then, are angling for vice-presidential nomination or cabinet positions.

Polls place Jokowi as the one to beat for the presidential elections but, of course, polls have gotten things wrong before: witness the poll expectations of 30 percent popular vote for the PDI-P for the April elections, and the corresponding pummeling expected for the Islamic parties.

Still, the PDI-P was the first to announce a coalition with NasDem, the National Democrat Party, founded by former Golkar Party member and media mogul Surya Paloh. NasDem is the only new party to be sanctioned by the General Election Commission (KPU) to contest the national elections and received 6.6 percent of the popular vote. NasDem favors former Vice President and Golkar Party member, Jusuf Kolla, as the vice-presidential nominee on the PDI-P coalition ticket, but Jokowi has maintained that nominations and cabinet posts will not be traded for coalition support. With NasDem’s support, PDI-P has passed the threshold for the nomination. Since the coalition with NasDem, the PDI-P has announced a coalition deal with the National Awakening Party, the PKB, founded by former Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid, although the family of “Gus Dur” has severed ties with the PKB. Talks are reportedly ongoing with another potential coalition partner, the United Development Party (PPP).

The infighting in PPP became almost a sport to watch following the quick-count results. Internal rifts in the party surged to the surface with senior party members voicing their disapproval of the close association of PPP chair, Suryadharma Ali, with Gerindra. In the face of the opposition and growing pressure to step down, Suryadharma Ali pre-empted his detractors by firing them from the party; he also declared his party’s support for Gerindra’s Prabowo Subianto. The party elders followed with their own announcement of Suryadharma Ali’s dismissal from the party. Fortunately for party members, the tit-for-tat retaliations have ended and the party announced a mending of the rifts; less fortunately for Gerindra, as part of the reconciliation, the PPP withdrew endorsement of Pubrabo Subianto and will decide on a candidate to support at the national meeting in early May.

Both Gerindra and Golkar have yet to announce coalition partners, although Gerindra has been in talks with the Islamic Parties, including the Prosperous Justice Party, PKS, as well as the Hanura Party. The PKS was caught in a sex-and-corruption scandal in 2013 that has seen its president jailed and other party elders at risk for similar penalties. Yet, the party lost only about 1 percent of popular support from the previous election. The PKS maintains that Islamic parties need to support a presidential candidate with a “high level of piety.”

Meanwhile, the possible tie-up between Gerindra and Hanura may spell trouble for Golkar and its presidential nominee, Aburizal Bakrie. Golkar has insisted that it will offer up only a presidential candidate, not a running mate; however, with PDI-P’s increasing coalition partners, the list of potential partners is quickly diminishing. Correspondingly, prospects that rivals will oust Aburizal Bakrie for control of the party is increasing.

What coalitions are improbable? At the least, it is clear that a coalition of Islamic parties is not in the cards, notwithstanding the hopes of the many prominent clerics who gathered together to push for that coalition. Likewise, although President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s Democrat Party is pushing ahead to name its own presidential nominee, it is not clear that it will be able to bring together a coalition large enough to support that nomination. It may have to face up to being in the opposition.