October 2, 2023
JAKARTA – Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) matron Megawati Soekarnoputri has called on the party’s rank and file to work hard for the victory of presidential nominee Ganjar Pranowo as the nation’s largest party treads a tightrope over its complicated relationship with party cadre and incumbent President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo.
Presiding over the party’s three day national meeting in Kemayoran, Central Jakarta, which ended on Sunday, Megawati appealed for a resolute fight and commitment to ensure the party’s victory amid what she called “attempts” to isolate Ganjar ahead of next year’s election, after more parties joined rival camps.
“Never be afraid, even in the slightest, in the face of various ambushes and practical political maneuvers that simply have the desire for power,” Megawati said in one of her speeches.
“We fight because our political beliefs have been tested by great and painful past challenges, especially during the New Order era,” she added. “Through the struggle of all of us uniting with the people, I am confident, God willing, that if we work hard, Ganjar will become the eighth Indonesian President.”
President Jokowi, dressed in a batik shirt in the distinctive red and black colors of the PDI-P, joined the party during the opening ceremony of the event on Friday and appeared to endorseme of Ganjar, as well as a policy platform with a focus on food sustainability that the party would offer in the upcoming race.
The relationship between Megawati and Jokowi, whom she referred to as a mere “party officer”, has reportedly deteriorated in the past few months as the two leaders compete as kingmakers for next year’s presidential election. The President has made some moves that have led some to believe that he supports the presidential bid of Prabowo Subianto, Ganjar’s main rival in the upcoming race.
Many have speculated that the President has mobilized major political parties in his ruling coalition to back Prabowo’s candidacy, making him the presidential candidate with the largest electoral alliance, consisting of his Gerindra Party, the Golkar Party, the National Mandate Party (PAN), the opposition Democratic Party and other smaller non-parliamentary parties such as the Crescent Star Party (PBB).
The PDI-P, the only party that is eligible to nominate its own presidential candidate without forming a coalition with other parties, is now left with the Muslim-based United Development Party (PPP) and two non-parliamentary parties, the United Indonesia Party (Perindo) and the People’s Conscience Party (Hanura), forming the smallest electoral alliance.
Prabowo-Ganjar, dead in the water?
In her closing remarks on Saturday, Megawati suggested that the party should be ready for a showdown with its rivals, quashing speculation that it was considering a merger with the Gerindra Party-led alliance by pairing Ganjar and Prabowo on a single ticket.
Both Ganjar and Prabowo are currently frontrunners in many public opinion polls, and both have pledged to continue Jokowi’s legacy.
Pairing Ganjar and Prabowo on a single ticket would pave the way for a two-horse race in the February election, consolidating pro-government supporters against the only other candidate pair: opposition figure Anies Baswedan and his running mate Muhaimin Iskandar.
“I found myself confused. There were suddenly reports in the media stating there had been an agreement that Pak Prabowo would become the [candidate for] president and Pak Ganjar would become the vice president,” she said.
“I kept gawking at home. Who said these? I am the chairwoman, and I don’t even understand. Don’t listen to such things. How was it that easy setting up this [pairing]?” she added.
The PDI-P has instead hinted that it may consider pairing Ganjar with East Java Governor Indar Parawansa as the presumptive presidential candidate flew to Surabaya on the second night of the party meeting.
“[In Surabaya, he] met with locals and special figures,” PDI-P secretary-general Hasto Kristiyanto said without revealing more.
Playing both sides
Jokowi’s presence at the party’s national meeting indicated the President would keep playing both sides in the upcoming presidential race, analyst Ahmad Khoirul Umam said.
“Jokowi’s hints of support for Ganjar on Friday’s event were aimed at maintaining the impression that Jokowi was still in the fold of the PDI-P. Jokowi did this to prevent open confrontation between himself and the PDI-P or Megawati,” Umam said.
With the lack of solid support from the political machine in Jokowi’s circles, Umam said he believed that the PDI-P had anticipated a situation where the party would press ahead with Ganjar’s presidential candidacy with or without the President’s support.
“The PDI-P wants to showcase its ‘independent’ political machine – [that the party] stands on its own two feet and is not dependent on Jokowi’s political influence,” Umam said.