January 10, 2023
JAKARTA – The Gerindra Party has launched a campaign and electoral committee for its chairman Prabowo Subianto, solidifying his move to enter the 2024 presidential race despite having yet to break a political stalemate with its coalition partner.
Prabowo, who is also Defense Minister, took part in a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the committee’s headquarters in Jakarta on Saturday, instructing party members to gear up for the upcoming general elections and be open to work with other parties.
“Let me reiterate again, this great country needs and has a large space. So we have to be able to work together with other political forces, with other political parties,” said Prabowo.
Gerindra is optimistic that the committee’s headquarters will become a silent witness of Prabowo’s victory in the 2024 presidential race, Secretary-General Ahmad Muzani said, noting that it will serve as a place where stakeholders supporting Prabowo’s presidential bid convene meetings.
“All various kinds of forces who are pinning hopes on Prabowo becoming president in 2024 will meet here. Hopefully, this effort can be welcomed by the people,” Muzani said.
Prabowo announced his intent to run as a 2024 presidential candidate last year as his Gerindra Party entered into a political agreement with the Islam-based National Awakening Party (PKB), which has insisted on its nominating its chairman Muhaimin Iskandar as either a presidential candidate or Prabowo’s running mate.
The alliance, analysts have said, is intended to combine Gerindra’s nationalist supporters and the PKB’s Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) religious base after Prabowo suffered back-to-back defeats in East Java, a traditional stronghold of NU, Indonesia’s largest Muslim organization, in previous elections.
Signs of election talks between Gerindra and the PKB hitting an impasse, however, have come to the fore with repeated delays of the launch of their joint secretariat team and growing rumors of a list of other popular figures being vetted to be Prabowo’s running mate. Muhaimin floated in November 2022 the possibility of leaving the alliance if he was not named a candidate for vice president.
Prabowo told reporters on Saturday that both parties have yet to decide on who will be his running mate, but stressed that any decision on the presidential and vice presidential candidate pair would be made jointly by both Gerindra and the PKB. “I’m sure the coalition will find the best decision for the people,” Prabowo said.
After his high-profile “political safari” during Idul Fitri holiday last year, Prabowo continued to forge closer ties with NU’s base, paying visit and having lunch with several NU’s senior clerics in Surabaya in East Java in late December 2022, some of whom later gave blessings to Prabowo’s political aspirations in 2024.
Analyst Ahmad Khoirul Umam said Gerindra’s move has sent a clear message to the PKB and other potential coalition partners that Prabowo’s presidential candidacy was non-negotiable.
“This will affect the increasingly narrow space for Gerindra to negotiate with other parties, especially with the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle [PDI-P], which is still open to the possibility of forging a coalition for the Ganjar-Prabowo or Puan-Prabowo presidential candidate scenarios,” Umam said.
He was referring to PDI-P politician and Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo, whose electability outshines those of fellow PDI-P politician Puan Maharani in many public opinion polls despite her being the heir apparent to the nation’s largest party.
“Gerindra’s alliance with the PKB still has a chance to remain intact because Muhaimin himself has welcomed the idea of being a vice presidential candidate. But Prabowo seems to still pin hopes on other figures who are more politically influential to ensure victory in the 2024 election,” Umam said.
Prabowo-Sandiaga falling out
During his speech at Saturday’s event, Prabowo appeared to take a dig at Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Sandiaga Uno, fellow Gerindra’s politician and Prabowo’s former running mate in the 2019 presidential race. Sandiaga is a long-time entrepreneur turned politician who, like Prabowo, joined Jokowi’s Cabinet after a bruising defeat.
“If one wants to part ways, do it with decency,” Prabowo said.
He did not specifically mention Sandiaga, but his remark came amid swirling rumors of a straining relationship between him and Sandiaga as the latter has appeared to get cozier with the Muslim-based United Development Party (PPP). Sandiaga is among the PPP’s regional branches’ preferred presidential hopefuls for 2024.
Sandiaga was conspicuously absent at Saturday’s event but was seen attending the PPP’s gathering in Yogyakarta the following day, wearing a green sarong, a distinctive color of the PPP.
Sandiaga said on Sunday that he already had plans to meet Prabowo to clear things up.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated.