Ganjar is the top presidential contender, surveys say. But can he run in 2024?

The real-world odds seem stacked against the Central Java governor, with his party apparently reluctant to give him the nomination.

Yerica Lai

Yerica Lai

The Jakarta Post


Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo speaks in front of students who take part in a rally to commemorate International Anticorruption Day in Semarang in this undated photo.(JP/Suherdjoko)

September 16, 2022

JAKARTA – If the presidential election were held today, Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo would win, according to a variety of political surveys. But a brewing power struggle within the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), of which Ganjar is a member, has cast doubt on whether he will have a chance to run in 2024 at all.

Political surveys have consistently shown Ganjar as the most popular potential presidential candidate, second only to President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, another PDI-P member, who is constitutionally barred from seeking reelection.

By that measure, Ganjar seems well positioned to become an electoral frontrunner. His only rivals in current polls are Gerindra Party leader Prabowo Subianto and Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan, who pollsters believe would find it hard to beat him. In a scenario where Ganjar ran against the two figures, he would win the election with 44.6 percent of the vote, leaving Prabowo in second with 25.7 percent and Anies with 21 percent, according to a recent survey by Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting (SMRC).

The real-world odds, however, seem stacked against the Central Java governor, with his party apparently reluctant to give him the nomination and now seeking electoral alliances for 2024, which could close the door to Ganjar running on another party’s ticket.

“It is not impossible,” said Charta Politika executive director Yunarto Wijaya when asked about the possibility of Ganjar failing to clinch a nomination. “No matter how good someone’s electability numbers are, they may end up with no ticket at all to contest the election.”

Puan’s maneuvers

Ganjar’s presidential bid rests not only with PDI-P matriarch Megawati Soekarnoputri, who has the final say on who will represent the party in the presidential race, but also her daughter, Puan Maharani, who also has her eye on the presidency.

The House of Representatives speaker has met with political bigwigs such as Prabowo and NasDem Party leader Surya Paloh for alliance talks, a maneuver that analysts say could be game-changing for 2024.

The PDI-P, holding more than 20 percent of the House’s seats, is the only party eligible to field a presidential candidate on its own. Analysts, however, say it is unlikely that the party will go it alone next election and that it remains a coveted electoral partner because of its strong grip on Central and East Java, two of the country’s most populous provinces.

A PDI-P-Gerindra alliance with a Prabowo-Puan ticket, for instance, could attract other parties, particularly United Indonesia Coalition (KIB) constituents the Golkar Party, the National Mandate Party (PAN) and the United Development Party (PPP), which do not have a popular potential candidate for the presidency.

“The result of [Puan’s] meetings will certainly be taken into consideration by Megawati to decide whom she will nominate,” PDI-P executive Eriko Sotarduga told The Jakarta Post.

All in the family

The question of the PDI-P’s presidential nominee is not just about who will replace Jokowi, with whom Megawati has had complicated relationship, but also about the future leadership of the party, which has been in the grip of the Sukarno clan since the downfall of Soeharto in 1998.

While Megawati remains powerful, her children, including Puan, lack the popular appeal of regional leaders like Jokowi and Ganjar, and rumors about Megawati’s health have fueled speculation that a messy succession may take place within the party.

Tensions between Ganjar and Puan’s camps have been brewing for a while, with their respective supporters lobbing accusations at each other. Some Puan loyalists are said to resent Ganjar’s lack of deference to Puan, accusing him of using the PDI-P solely as a vehicle for his presidential ambitions.

In May last year, Ganjar was not invited by party elites to an internal consolidation meeting in Semarang, Central Java – a longtime party stronghold and the province of which Ganjar is governor. Puan, who spoke at the event, took what many perceived to be a dig at Ganjar.

The PDI-P establishment’s resistance to Ganjar’s rise and Megawati’s desire to grant the nomination to a Sukarno clan loyalist may prevent Ganjar from running in 2024, said Paramadina University political analyst Khoirul Umam. “

If Puan again has to ‘give way’ to figures outside the Sukarno clan, at a time when the talks of leadership succession have been repeatedly initiated by PDI-P leader Megawati Soekarnoputri, it would only show that Puan’s clout is weakening within the party. We should remember Megawati is not young anymore,” he said. (ahw)

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