December 19, 2022
JAKARTA – West Java Governor Ridwan Kamil has seen his stock rise in recent months, cementing himself as a lucrative option to be a presidential running mate in the 2024 elections — even if some remain unconvinced that he has what it takes to make it onto the national stage.
Ridwan, an architect by trade, burst onto the political scene in 2013, when he trounced seven other Bandung, West Java, mayoral candidates by securing a 27-percent lead over the next candidate at the regional elections.
He stayed on this upward trajectory after securing the top seat in West Java by winning the 2018 gubernatorial election, albeit by a smaller margin.
As the curtain prepares to rise on the 2024 race, political parties might find it difficult to ignore Ridwan; a recent public-opinion poll by Indikator Politik Indonesia saw him become the most popular choice for vice president — even though he currently has no political-party affiliation.
Last month, Bogor Mayor Bima Arya, whose National Mandate Party (PAN) is a member of the United Indonesia Coalition (KIB), spoke about a hypothetical match-up between Ridwan and Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo, although the proposal has not completely won over PAN’s fellow-coalition partners.
The KIB, which includes the Golkar Party and the United Development Party (PPP), is currently the only coalition that has not announced its preferred choice of candidates.
Ridwan, endearingly referred to as Kang Emil, is widely known for his light-hearted online persona and witty engagement with netizens on social media, where he regularly posts to his millions of followers.
It is Ridwan’s approachable personality that has helped his electability skyrocket in recent polls, analysts say.
“Ridwan is a very smart politician in terms of capitalizing on the moments [he shares on social media] to their full advantage… He would use these moments to cast a positive light on himself in the public’s eyes,” political analyst Firman Noor of the National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN) said on Wednesday.
Echoing Firman, Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) researcher Arya Fernandes said that Ridwan’s online presence has helped him secure a loyal voter base, particularly among West Java youths.
“Ridwan has the advantage when it comes to young voters and social media users. As evidence, he has managed to foster the creativity of the youth in Bandung,” Arya told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.
Despite his high electability, however, Arya said Ridwan’s popularity is not enough to guarantee that any party or coalition would hand him a ticket to contest in the 2024 elections, with many other factors to consider in putting together a candidate pairing.
“They might prefer an internal-party member or another party chair. There are also external factors, such as [preferring] a Javanese and non-Javanese pair, or a civilian-military pairing,” the analyst said.
It is still too early to ascertain which coalition would benefit the most from nominating Ridwan, Arya continued, since not one coalition has locked in their candidate choices.
Firman of BRIN also questioned whether or not Ridwan’s work as governor has earned him enough to convince political parties that he can lead at the national level.
“He might have brought something new to Bandung [as mayor], but he has not shown the same level [of progress] as West Java governor. It would be worrying for him if political parties start to think that he performs best only at a mayoral or regional level,” said the political expert.
Another inhibiting factor, Firman added, was Ridwan’s lack of political influence in helping fund election campaigns.
“It’s no secret that a vice presidential candidate would have to contribute a lot [to the campaign], be it from his own pocket or from his connections,” he said.
Ridwan is already working on a fix to several obstacles.
He has been very candid about his plan to join a political party, having confirmed his intention again last week by telling reporters he would announce his final decision before the end of the month.
Should Ridwan follow through on his plans, Firman said that it would be his best bet on improving his chances to run in the 2024 elections.
“A coalition would certainly prefer nominating a candidate who is affiliated with a political party, since it also ensures the support of a whole political organization behind the pairing,” Firman said.
Arya, meanwhile, said that joining a political party would also help him secure a “Plan B” option to recontest the 2024 West Java gubernatorial elections, should he fail to make it as a VP candidate.