May 15, 2023
JAKARTA – The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) is set to engage in “dynamic” talks with current partners and prospective allies on a running mate for Ganjar Pranowo amid speculations it was looking to replicate the winning strategy in 2019 by pairing its presidential nominee with a senior figure from Nahdlatul Ulama (NU).
While Ganjar looks set to run in the upcoming race on a religious-nationalist platform that the country’s largest nationalist party appeared to construct via electoral partnership with the Muslim-based United Development Party (PPP), a big question remains about who will be his running mate.
PDI-P secretary-general Hasto Kristiyanto said this week talks about who would fill the vice-presidential slot would be “dynamic” as the party would look for a figure who could “complement” and help the Central Java Governor win the 2024 presidential race.
“The best figure to accompany Ganjar will be sought by weighing […] dual and complementary leadership models, how the cooperation of the political parties will be built and [joint] efforts to win,” Hasto said. “It cannot be dismissed that the presidential and vice-presidential candidates need 50 percent plus one vote.”
The subject of who will become Ganjar’s running mate had been discussed between chairwoman Megawati Soekarnoputri and President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo prior to the party’s announcement of Ganjar’s nomination, Hasto said. This included, he added, during their private three-hour meeting back in March, during which the President underlined his concern over the longevity of his legacy and the two “came to the same understanding” on who the party should nominate.
Megawati, who has an undisputable veto on the party’s nomination of presidential and vice-presidential candidates, said last month she was in no rush to make up her mind over the vice-presidential pick, with “more than 10 figures” having lined up to be Ganjar’s running mate.
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Speculations have been rife Megawati had been weighing pairing Ganjar with a senior figure from NU, the country’s largest Islamic organization, representing many of the country’s mainstream Muslims, in a strategy some analysts say was crucial for the victory of Jokowi during his reelection in 2019.
“Megawati’s sealing of Ganjar’s nomination by placing a peci [traditional hat] on his head on the last day of Ramadhan, a very sacred time for Muslims, carried the message that it will remain a friend to Muslim communities,” said Airlangga Pribadi, a political science lecturer at Airlangga University, Surabaya, East Java.
Upon his nomination, Ganjar is tasked to consolidate the party’s machinery across provinces, with the heavily populated East Java being the first province he visited last week. PDI-P has been eyeing a bigger win in East Java despite Jokowi’s strong showing in 2019.
But the upcoming presidential race has seen other presidential candidates vying for the support of the traditionalist Islamic organization, with both Prabowo Subianto and Anies Baswedan having been exploring the options to pair up with NU figures.
Prabowo, who has secured the backing of the National Awakening Party (PKB), often described as NU’s political vehicle, has been forging closer ties with NU’s base, paying visits and having lunch with several NU senior clerics and prominent figures in East Java.
“By forging an electoral pact with PKB, Prabowo has secured an apparent head start in his effort to turn the table in East Java,” said Bawono Kumoro of pollster Indikator Politik Indonesia.
The same goes for Anies, who embarked on a political safari to East Java last week and put East Java Governor Khofifah Indar Parawansa, an NU member, on his short list of potential running mates in a bid to boost his showing in the province.
Read also: PDI-P to face challenge in retaining power beyond 2024, analysts say
Having PDI-P nominate an NU figure as a vice-presidential candidate to accompany Ganjar when other presidential candidates also prefer running mates from NU would likely help PDI-P tip the balance as it would spread the support across multiple candidates, Bawono said.
“To have more than one NU figure joining the race will split the NU’s voting bloc to the point that it no longer becomes a distinction or a determining factor that will help a candidate win the upcoming race,” he said.
Ganjar’s eventual running mate pick, however, would also hinge on Megawati’s personal preference as the party had gained a better standing this time around, Bawono said. “With a much stronger showing in the last election than in 2014, Megawati will have more freedom to pick who she thinks suitable as vice-presidential candidate.”