August 14, 2023
JAKARTA – With the Golkar Party and the National Mandate Party (PAN) joining his coalition, Gerindra Party patron Prabowo Subianto is now the presumptive presidential nominee with the biggest political support heading into next year’s election.
After more than one year of speculation and politicking, Golkar and PAN – which were previously joined in the United Indonesia Coalition (KIB) – have finally landed on Prabowo as their presidential candidate of choice in next year’s elections.
The announcement was made by Golkar and PAN chairs Airlangga Hartarto and Zulkifli Hasan at the Tugu Proklamasi (Proclamation Monument) complex in Central Jakarta in front of Prabowo himself. Also attending the event was Muhaimin Iskandar, who leads the pro-government National Awakening Party (PKB), Gerindra’s initial partner for the 2024 presidential election.
Speaking of Golkar’s decision to back Prabowo, Airlangga said Golkar views his leadership as being the most “appropriate” in bringing Indonesia out of the middle-income trap. “The [development] process that has been started by President [Jokowi] must be continued, and we think that Prabowo is the right figure to do so,” Airlangga, who is also President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s coordinating economic minister, said.
Zulkifli, meanwhile, cited PAN’s long-standing history of backing Prabowo in past presidential elections as a reason for its continued support for the retired general.
“For the past 10 years, we have fought together with Prabowo [during the 2014 and 2019 presidential elections],” Zulkifli said.
In his closing remarks, Prabowo said the four parties all shared a common value of wanting to avoid a divisive election next year, as the coalition views a united Indonesia to be a prerequisite in ushering through development once Jokowi steps down from office.
Golkar’s and PAN’s decision to back Prabowo further fuels speculation that President Jokowi is rooting for his former election rival in the next presidential race, given that the two parties have been loyal to the President.
The move deals a serious blow to the coalition led by the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) that is backing Central Java Ganjar Pranowo.
The KIB was initially set up as a political vehicle for Ganjar should the PDI-P refuse to nominate its own member as presidential candidate. PDI-P matriarch Megawati Soekarnoputri nominated Ganjar in April, but without consulting Jokowi on her decision, who was only notified about the decision in the last minute.
Megawati and Jokowi have since engaged in a power struggle to shape the political alliance representing the pro-government parties in the upcoming presidential race.
The coalition had previously floated the idea of forming a big-tent coalition by pairing Prabowo and Ganjar, but neither the PDI-P nor Gerindra was willing to play second fiddle in the race.
When asked by reporters whether Jokowi has had a hand in the formation of the fourway alliance, Prabowo said that, while Jokowi was in no way involved, he was sure the President would approve of the coalition.
“Jokowi is a democratic man. He truly respects the independency of every party. So I’m sure that he would approve of any decision,” Prabowo said.
Prabowo said more parties were welcome to join the coalition.
The VP question
With Golkar and PAN onboard, Prabowo is now finding himself in the difficult spot of picking his running mate. Golkar and the PKB are eager to nominate their own party heads as Prabowo’s running mate, while PAN has offered State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) Minister Erick Thohir, an ally of President Jokowi, as a potential candidate.
“We have agreed to discuss it thoroughly as a team in order to find the best candidate that can be accepted by all four parties,” Prabowo said curtly when asked by reporters on who had the final say over the alliance’s VP ticket.
None of the three names on Prabowo’s potential VP shortlist stood above the rest, as each candidate has their drawbacks and benefits, according to Firman Noor of the National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN).
“The ethical choice would be Muhaimin, as the PKB has been Gerindra’s longest ally,” Firman said. “But, I don’t think Golkar will back down, since it is the largest party in the coalition. Likewise, PAN also won’t back down because Erick is a popular figure.”
Prabowo’s pick for VP, Firman went on to say, will likely come down to the political negotiations among the four parties.
“At the end of the day, money talks. [Prabowo could be inclined to make his VP pick] based on which coalition partner would provide the most funding [for his campaigns],” he added.
The presidential election is increasingly shaping up to be a three-horse race now Golkar and PAN have decided to join the Gerindra coalition.
Prabowo is now the man to beat in the election, with Ganjar and former Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan, who is backed by the Coalition for Change and Unity (KPP), trailing behind him.
That said, the political map could still change before the registration for the presidential candidates closes in November. (ahw)
Editor’s note: This article has been updated to correct errors in the 8th paragraph.