November 27, 2023
JAKARTA – Presidential candidate Ganjar Pranowo has reached out to opponent Anies Baswedan’s camp ahead of the official campaign period over shared concerns about the state apparatus’ neutrality in next year’s election.
Last Sunday, Ganjar, the candidate backed by the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), visited the residence of businessman and political heavyweight Jusuf Kalla, a longtime ally and supporter of Anies, the candidate who is positioning himself as President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s antithesis.
Despite serving as vice president during Jokowi’s first term, Kalla has in recent years grown critical of his former running mate.
He lent his voice to a chorus of critics who said Jokowi was misusing his power to establish a political dynasty and was allowing nepotism to undermine the country’s democracy, following a controversial Constitutional Court ruling in October that cleared the way for Surakarta Mayor Gibran Rakabuming Raka, the President’s eldest son, to run for vice president in the 2024 election.
Speaking after the meeting with Ganjar, Kalla said the two shared similar concerns over the neutrality of the police and Indonesian Military (TNI), whose chiefs are both staunch Jokowi loyalists.
“In a situation like this, we hope public officials – whether in the government, police, military or other state institutions – will be neutral and help to ensure the elections will be held safely,” Kalla said.
The meeting came amid reports of police officers taking down posters of Ganjar in several cities. In separate incidents, the officers replaced the Ganjar posters with ones depicting presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto, who has Gibran as his vice presidential candidate, or posters of the Indonesian Solidarity Party (PSI), currently led by Jokowi’s youngest son Kaesang Pangarep.
Anies’ campaign team also complained that acting West Java governor Bey Machmudin had barred Anies from holding a rally at a government building in Bandung on Oct. 8. Bey served on the Presidential Secretariat’s protocol team before being appointed to temporarily lead West Java.
While the acting governor insisted that government buildings should not host political events, Kaesang organized a political talk show on the same day at the government-owned Arcamanik Sports Venue in the same city.
Saying it was important to maintain national unity while pursuing the goal of making Indonesia a high-income nation by 2045 – one of the focuses of Jokowi’s presidency – Kalla noted, “We want to keep this nation safe ahead of 2045, as Pak Jokowi wants. But it requires [the state apparatus] to act fairly and remain neutral.”
A businessman-turned-politician with an extensive network and sharp lobbying skills, Kalla has taken on a mentorship role in Anies’ political career. The South Sulawesi-born figure was known for helping pave the way for Anies to run in the 2017 Jakarta gubernatorial election against incumbent Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, Jokowi’s former deputy governor.
Despite Kalla’s public claim that he would not take sides in the upcoming presidential race, he has hinted multiple times at his support for Anies, describing the former Jakarta governor as “the complete package” and someone who had what it took to lead the country.
Ganjar acknowledged after the meeting that Kalla might support another candidate, but he took the opportunity to invite Kalla to back him, particularly in the case of a runoff, which analysts say is likely.
“I have feeling that Pak [Kalla’s first] choice will not be me,” Ganjar said. “But that’s fine if you later end up supporting me.”
However, the NasDem Party, which leads the three-way alliance backing Anies’ presidential bid, denied claims that its camp had been in communication with Ganjar’s, saying it refused to be drawn into the conflict between the PDI-P and Jokowi.
The Sunday meeting was the second time in recent weeks that a PDI-P representative has held a private dialogue with Kalla. The first was when Puan Maharani, heir apparent to the position of party chair, talked in October with Kalla about the “worrying condition” of Indonesian politics, prior to the controversial Constitutional Court ruling.
The Ganjar camp’s efforts to team up with Anies may have to do with the need to chip away at growing support for the rival Prabowo-Gibran ticket, said Agung Baskoro, executive director of Trias Politika Strategis.
“Launching a unified public attack from both sides was expected to have a greater impact in eroding support for Prabowo and Gibran, who have been dominating the competition,” he said.
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Such an approach, however, would come at the expense of Ganjar’s own chance of securing a spot in the runoff.
The former Central Java governor has seen his electability take a hit after he took a more critical stance toward the Jokowi administration, as indicated in recent polls by pollster Indikator Politik. On the other hand, Anies has seen a slight increase, closing the gap between him and Ganjar.
Prabowo, meanwhile, has widened his lead, garnering support from younger voters and Jokowi supporters after Gibran officially joined his ticket.
Agung suggested that Ganjar had “shot himself in the foot” with his confrontational stance against Jokowi and that he had failed to distinguish himself sufficiently from Anies.
“If he’s not careful,” he said, “Anies could emerge as a dark horse and overtake Ganjar’s spot in the runoff.”