Jokowi plays kingmaker as Megawati weighs Ganjar-Prabowo ticket

The President has been seeking to influence the hunt for his successor to ensure that his legacy continues when his second and final term ends.

Yerica Lai

Yerica Lai

The Jakarta Post


Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo (right) takes a selfie with President Joko “Jokowi“ Widodo and Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto during a rice harvest event in Central Java. (The Jakarta Post/Presidential Palace)

March 23, 2023

JAKARTA – Megawati Soekarnoputri is reportedly weighing a possibility of pairing together Central Jakarta Governor Ganjar Pranowo and Gerindra Party leader Prabowo Subianto for the 2024 presidential election, following her three-hour private meeting with President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo last week.

The President has been playing kingmaker, seeking to influence the hunt for his successor to ensure that his legacy continues past 2024, when his second and final term ends.

Jokowi has confirmed that his meeting last Saturday with the matriarch of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), of which he is a member, was to discuss next year’s presidential race, and that he also informed her of his preferred candidates.

“I gave [her] my views, from the numbers that we have, from the data that we have,” he told reporters on Monday during an event at the Finance Ministry.

‘Same understanding’

While the President declined to name names, the Kompas daily quoted a State Palace source as saying that Jokowi had proposed Ganjar and Prabowo as the PDI-P’s candidate pair.

The two figures are leading the public opinion polls, and are also considered capable of continuing the President’s flagship programs.

PDI-P secretary-general Hasto Kristiyanto, a longtime Megawati loyalist, said on Monday that the President had underlined his concern over the longevity of his legacy. He added that over the three-hour meeting, Jokowi and Megawati had “come to the same understanding” on who the party should nominate.

Hasto’s statement has been interpreted as an indication that Megawati, who is expected to announce her presidential pick in June, might have come to the realization that nominating Ganjar was the only way to win the election.

Many believe that Megawati has been debating between nominating her daughter, House of Representatives Speaker Puan Maharani, and Ganjar. The former has constantly scored low in public polls, while the latter has remained the clear front-runner.

Ahmad Khoirul Umam, executive director of think tank the Institute for Democracy and Strategic Affairs (IndoStrategic), speaking to The Jakarta Post on Tuesday, said the weekend’s events were indicative that negotiations between Megawati and Jokowi had entered “a more mature” phase and that they were leaning toward Ganjar.

Umam said added that Megawati appearing in public on the same stage with Coordinating Maritime Affairs and Investment Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan on Sunday, a day after her meeting with the President, could also signal that she had come around and given her nod to Jokowi’s preferred candidate.

Luhut is an influential power broker at the State Palace and has long been Jokowi’s key ally.

“The meeting between Megawati and Jokowi, as well as [between] Luhut and Megawati, suggest that they are close to reaching unanimity in their decision to nominate Ganjar,” said Umam.

Chance for Prabowo

It remains unclear if Megawati is considering Defense Minister Prabowo as the PDI-P’s presidential candidate, or if Prabowo was willing to be Ganjar’s running mate.

National Intelligence Agency (BIN) chief Budi Gunawan lauded the close relationship between Jokowi and Prabowo, noting that the former general had begun to pick up some of the President’s good leadership traits.

Budi said the two men had been together so often that the President’s leadership style had begun to rub off on the Gerindra Party leader.

“Again today, we see the two of them together here,” Budi said in his opening remarks at the Papua Youth Creative Hub on Tuesday in Jayapura, Papua.

“Everyone now begins to see [Prabowo’s] aura. We can see that some of Pak [Mr.] Jokowi’s aura has been transferred to Pak Prabowo.”

The intelligence chief is a close ally of Megawati and another powerful figure at the State Palace who was instrumental in bringing Prabowo into the government. A retired police general, Budi helped broker the appointment of Jokowi’s erstwhile rival in the 2014 and 2019 elections as defense minister.

An approach to Anies?

The President, however, is also deemed to be hedging his bets by not entirely distancing himself from the opposition, which has expressed its commitment to continue “Jokowi’s best policies’.

For example, Jokowi did not announce a Cabinet shake-up in February, despite mounting calls from the ruling coalition to oust NasDem after it declared it was backing opposition figure Anies Baswedan for 2024. This has led observers to think that the President could be reconsidering maintaining his good ties with both NasDem and Anies as a contingency to protect his legacy.

Last week’s meeting between Luhut and Surya, who had met twice previously when tensions were brewing between the latter and Jokowi, could indicate that the two camps were still negotiating a win-win solution.

“Jokowi may appear to endorse Prabowo and Ganjar, but at the same time, he may also still be calculating whether to also lend his support for Anies, to secure his programs and policies,” said Agung Baskoro, executive director of political consultancy Trias Politika Strategis.

“Anies’ running mate could serve as a gateway to negotiations for both the NasDem-led alliance and Jokowi’s camp. East Java Governor Khofifah Indar Parawansa, a pro-government figure who has a close relationship with Jokowi, could turn out to be someone Anies needs, as he lacks support in East Java,” he added. (ahw)

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