Early alliance building for a likely run-off has hit a snag in Indonesia

Despite the possibility of teaming up, the rivalry between the Ganjar and Anies camps did not appear to let up.

Yerica Lai

Yerica Lai

The Jakarta Post


Despite the possibility of teaming up, the rivalry between the Ganjar and Anies camps did not appear to let up. PHOTO: UNSPLASH

January 5, 2024

JAKARTA – Alliance building in anticipation of a likely runoff election hit a snag as parties backing Ganjar Pranowo and Anies Baswedan are both still eyeing to boost their own chances of securing a spot in the race’s possible second round.

While they had claimed to have shared experiences over “intimidation” against their candidates and supporters, talks between parties backing Ganjar and Anies over potential cooperation for the runoff have faced some complications as some members appeared reluctant to act hastily before they can be sure of who will earn the runoff spot.

The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), which is backing Ganjar and running mate Mahfud MD, said they would continue talks with Anies supporters over ways to prevent February’s presidential race from concluding in a single round.

PDI-P politician Aria Bima claimed both camps were of the same opinion that each would boost its campaigns for its own candidate to combat what they called apparent efforts via public opinion pollsters to alter voter perception that there would be a clear winner in February’s race, which could alter voters’ choices.

“There should be no attempt to sway public opinion [into believing that the upcoming election will conclude in a single round] by preconditioning the surveys as if they were democratic and using the state apparatus [in the attempt to push for a single-round election],” Aria said. “That’s dangerous.”

This led PDI-P secretary-general Hasto Kristiyanto to propose the establishment of an independent committee, consisting of public intellectuals and experts, to conduct a thorough audit of all pollsters that want to publish survey results.

Latest opinion polls carried out during the first week of campaigning in early December have placed third-time candidate Prabowo Subianto comfortably ahead of his opponents, leaving Ganjar and Anies battling for second place, and enough votes to ensure a runoff.

Despite the possibility of teaming up, the rivalry between the Ganjar and Anies camps did not appear to let up, with the latter shooting down the PDI-P’s proposal to create an independent committee and accusing the party of panicking about Ganjar’s slipping electability rating.

“[We have not seen] the urgency and we prefer to trust the public to conclude [the surveys] for themselves,” Billy David, spokesperson for the Anies campaign team, said on Wednesday.

The PDI-P’s admission came after an internal discord within the Anies campaign team that saw two key members publicly clash over the prospect of joining forces with parties supporting Ganjar in a possible runoff election.

Ahmad Ali, who is also the deputy chairman of the NasDem Party, which leads the three-way alliance backing Anies, has dismissed the idea of forming alliances with Ganjar’s camp, as the party refused to be drawn into the ongoing conflict between the PDI-P and its politician President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo.

The ties between the PDI-P and Jokowi turned sour after the President allowed his son Gibran Rakabuming Raka to run alongside party rival Prabowo in the upcoming election.

“We are not forging alliances with any specific group; our allegiance lies with the people. Engaging with the Ganjar campaign team is not feasible as we are direct competitors,” Ali said.

These comments drew a strong rebuke from Sudirman Said, a prominent member of Anies’ campaign team and one of his most trusted aides. Sudirman condemned Ali’s remarks as “provocative” and potentially “unsettling” for volunteers and supporters of Anies and political parties within the camp.

“I’m not sure that Ali’s statements and attitude represent his party’s line. They may reflect solely his stance, and maybe because of his personality, others inside his party are reluctant to remind him,” said Sudirman, who is not part of NasDem.

Sudirman previously had admitted that he, along with fellow prominent campaigner Muhammad Jumhur Hidayat, had communicated with some members of Ganjar’s team, although he stressed that their talks had been informal and did not represent an alliance.

Sudirman added that in any competition, it is common for rivals to communicate among themselves and discuss a possible coalition, and that closing the door to the other sides “does not reflect the value that was embodied by both Anies and running mate Muhaimin Iskandar”.

“It is completely wrong for Ali to call [this] foolish. Look it up in history books, even in fierce wars involving weapons, some messengers continued to communicate between those who were fighting,” Sudirman added.

Several NasDem members have defended Ali, saying his stance reflected that of party chairman Surya Paloh. They slammed Sudirman for intervening with the party’s internal affairs and called for his removal from the campaign team.

But Ali later issued a public apology to Sudirman, calling for any disagreement to be discussed privately as creating a polemic in public would only hurt the Anies-Muhaimin campaign.

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