Tag Archives: Prabowo Subianto

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.