Tag Archives: Prabowo Subianto

Indonesia – How Political Chips are Aligning for Presidential and General Elections, 2019

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.[1] 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.[2] 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.[3] 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.

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[1] 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>

[2] Yap, O. Fiona. 2014. “Indonesia – Transparency and Accountability in the Presidential Elections 2014.” https://presidential-power.com/?p=1612 July 14, 2014 <accessed 3 September 2018>

[3] 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>

Indonesia – What lies ahead for Presidential Elections 2019?

On 23 February, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) officially nominated President Joko Widodo, popularly known as President Jokowi, as its presidential candidate for the 2019 elections. The 2019 elections will be the first where both legislative and presidential elections are held on the same day since direct elections for the presidency was instituted in 2004. The latest reform follows a Constitutional Court ruling in January 2014, from a challenge to the Presidential Election Law, Law No. 42/2008, that governed the nomination and election of presidential candidates. The Presidential Election Law had stipulated that elections for legislative and presidential elections be held at least three months apart, so that only parties or coalitions that received 25 percent of the national vote or 20 percent of the parliamentary seats are able to field presidential candidates. The Court ruled that this sequential timing was unconstitutional; however, it left the legislature to decide on whether the thresholds for nomination should remain. On July 20, 2017, some 534 of the 560 lawmakers – an estimated 95.4 percent – attended a plenary session to pass the bill to maintain the thresholds. The attendance is testimonial to the significance of the bill: plenary sessions usually see less than half of the representatives of the House present. By the new law, only parties or coalitions with at least 20 percent of the seats in the legislature or 25 percent of the popular vote based on the outcome of the 2014 legislative elections are able to nominate presidential candidates. What lies ahead for the coming 2019 Presidential elections?

The threshold will certainly limit the number of candidates running for elections. So far, only President Jokowi’s candidacy has been formally announced. The President’s candidacy is supported by the National Democratic Party as well as Golkar, if not the other parties of the ruling Awesome Indonesia coalition that include the Hanura Party, the PAN (National Mandate Party), and the PPP (United Development Party). This is a big change from the 2014 elections, when the PDI-P’s surprise failure to garner the support needed to meet the threshold gave it a late start in the political jockeying among parties. Prabowo Subianto of the Gerindra party, the other presidential candidate in the 2014 elections, looks set to run as a candidate again, supported by Gerindra and the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), and particularly following the recent win by Anies Baswedan – the candidate supported by the Gerindra party-supported– in the Jakarta gubernatorial elections. There is talk of Anies Baswedan running for elections himself, replicating President Jokowi’s strategy back in 2014, although he will clearly need the backing of a number of parties in order to cross that threshold.

An issue that will undoubtedly surface in the presidential elections is religious divisions. Religious-based parties have kept a firm hold on the electorate: indeed, in the 2014 elections, Islamic parties reported better-than-expected results that contradicted expectations of significant setbacks to religion-based parties. Even the PKS (Prosperous Justice Party), which had been caught in a sex-and-corruption scandal, lost only about 1 percent of popular support from the previous election.[1] Religion was also used successfully as a strategy to divide the popular vote in the Jakarta elections: Governor Anies had 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, during the campaign. The former and highly popular governor, Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, who was running as the incumbent, had his election-bid upended when he was charged, and subsequently convicted, of blasphemy against the Qu’ran. Meanwhile, religiously motivated attacks have been on the rise in Indonesia, prompting the legislature to pass the President’s Perppu to ban organizations that did not support Indonesia’s ideology of Pancasila. That law has been used to disband extremist hard-line Islamist groups, such as the Hizbut Tahrir; however, critics are concerned that the law gives the government the right to disband organizations without due process of law.

As the world’s third largest democracy, and a country with the largest Muslim population in the world, many will undoubtedly be intently watching the local elections in 2018, and general elections in 2019, to see how Indonesia fares amid stalling democratization and even reversals in East and Southeast Asia.

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[1] Yap, O. Fiona. 2014. “Indonesia – Preliminary Results of the April 2014 Legislative Elections.” https://presidential-power.com/?p=1054 April 11, 2014 <accessed 5 March 2018>

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.