June 12, 2023
JAKARTA – The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) has extended an unusual peace offering to its archnemesis, the Democratic Party, to potentially partner up for the upcoming general elections, a move that analysts said could put the presidential aspiration of opposition figure Anies Baswedan in tatters.
The ruling party unexpectedly opened the door for a potential reconciliation with the opposition party as the long-planned meeting between PDI-P heir apparent Puan Maharani and Democrat chair Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono finally set to go ahead, PDI-P Secretary-General Hasto Kristiyanto said on Saturday.
Puan is the daughter of PDI-P matriarch Megawati Soekarnoputri who governed as president before Agus’ father and Democrat founder Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono exited Megawati’s Cabinet in 2004 to run against her for the top job.
Likening the rocky ties between the two rival parties as a Saudi Arabia-Iran relationship, Hasto said the ruling party “humbly offered” the Democrats a chance to have a dialogue about potentially backing PDI-P’s presidential nominee Ganjar Pranowo in next year’s election despite the two parties having political differences.
“We have the spirit of gotong royong [mutual cooperation], thus the PDI-P is eager to welcome [the Democratic Party] while we are waiting [to see whether or not Anies would name Agus as his running mate]. After all, Anies has yet to invite [Agus to be on its ticket],” Hasto said.
“We respect political parties that have created electoral partnerships, but being able to have a dialogue [with them] remains something important. We can differ politically, but when there are spaces for dialogue, especially for the interests of the people and nation, [we need to look at it] in a positive manner.”
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The PDI-P had previously ruled out any possibility of forging a political partnership with the Democrats, stressing that the two parties had historical and fundamental differences, including over how Yudhoyono governed as president when the PDI-P played its role as opposition.
However, the PDI-P recently appeared to take a sudden shift as it put Agus on a list of potential running mates for popular Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo, along with other popular names on the public opinion polls and party chairs who have been vying to fill the vice presidential slot in the upcoming race.
The PDI-P’s move came as Anies faces a declining trend in his electability, which prompted the Democrats to threaten to “evaluate” its membership in the three-party Coalition of Change for Unity (KPP), backing the former Jakarta governor unless a running mate is announced this month.
Ever since the Democrats, the NasDem Party and the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) formed the KPP earlier this year and named Anies as their presidential candidate, the alliance has failed to settle on who would run alongside him on its ticket, and ultimately resorted to allowing Anies to pick his running mate from a few vetted candidates.
The Democrats have insisted on nominating Agus for the vice presidency as Yudhoyono is reportedly fighting hard for his son’s political ambitions. And the recent inclusion of Agus in the list of Ganjar’s potential running mates took the Democrats by surprise and prompted some of their members to praise the PDI-P for becoming unreserved and somehow recognizing Agus as worthy of joining the 2024 race.
“There seems to be a shifting tone conveyed by Puan in the inner PDI-P, while it was also rare that the public could hear good words coming from PDI-P members about [our] party chair AHY,” said Democrat politician Syahrial Nasution, referring to Agus by his initials.
Agus has welcomed the PDI-P’s proposal for dialogue, noting that his party refused to play the politics of division and would continue engaging in communication with any other parties despite them already committing to different electoral alliances.
“I myself can always rationalize whatever arrangement political entities are simulating today,” Agus said.
Some Democrats however said the party would “remain faithful” to the KPP alliance, Anies and whoever his eventual running mate was; a stance that was also taken by its alliance partners.
While analysts said the Ganjar-Agus pairing remained too good to be true, the PDI-P’s peace offering may serve as a loyalty test for the Democrats, whose support was needed by the KPP to pass the presidential nomination threshold.
“The Democratic Party’s faith in the KPP will falter if AHY fails to become Anies’ running mate. This potential is seen by the PDI-P,” analyst Arifki Chaniago said in a statement.
“Anies certainly needs support from the Democrats to run as president next year. However, to be able to compete with frontrunners Prabowo [Subianto of the Gerindra Party] and Ganjar, it looks like Anies needs a stronger running mate.”