April 4, 2023
JAKARTA – Five of the seven pro-government political parties in the legislative body are expected to build a grand alliance for the 2024 presidential election amid speculations of strained relations between President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and the establishment of his own political party.
A gathering of party elites involving members of the United Indonesia Coalition (KIB) and the Great Indonesia Awakening Coalition (KIR) at an iftar event on Sunday produced an understanding between the two alliances over the possibility of building a big-tent coalition to nominate a unified presidential ticket in the next election.
The five political parties involved were the Gerindra Party, the Golkar Party, the National Awakening Party (PKB), the United Development Party (PPP) and the National Mandate Party (PAN). The NasDem Party, which backs opposition figure Anies Baswedan, and the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), which has enough seats in the legislative body to go it alone in the 2024 presidential race, were conspicuously absent from the meeting.
“It turns out that there is an agreement and we’re on the same wavelength and we can work together,” Gerindra leader Prabowo Subianto told reporters after the event. He also said the planned electoral alliance, if it materialized, could back a ticket supported by President Jokowi. “We’re already in Pak Jokowi’s team, aren’t we?”
Read also: Analysis: PDI-P contemplates Ganjar-Prabowo pairing
The political iftar event came after what appears to be an unspoken conflict between the President and the PDI-P, of which he is a member, over the question of Israel’s participation at the 2023 Under-20 World Cup, which swiftly led to the shock removal of Indonesia as the host by FIFA.
While NasDem’s absence is explained by the party’s decision to back Anies, National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN) political analyst Firman Noor said that the PDI-P’s absence might reflect a sign of growing cracks between the party and President Jokowi.
“Jokowi and [PDI-P chairwoman Megawati Soekarnoputri] have long been divided”, Firman told The Jakarta Post on Monday. “Megawati has her own interests and maintains her authority over the PDI-P while Jokowi feels that even without the support of the party, he could still rally the people loyal to him and protect his own interests”.
However, PDI-P politician Said Abdullah insisted that Megawati received an invitation to the gathering, but was forced to miss the event because of a conflicting schedule, according to Antara news agency.
Read also: U-20 fiasco to hurt Ganjar more than PDI-P, analysts say
Indonesia was originally set to host the U-20 soccer tournament in May before FIFA pulled the plug last week, with controversy over Israel’s attendance being rumored as one of the reasons.
The government had been planning to use the tournament as an opportunity to kickstart the country’s soccer reform, with the aim of making a bid for the senior World Cup in the future. But Bali Governor I Wayan Koster and Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo, both PDI-P members, vocally opposed Israel’s participation, even though the PDI-P has traditionally been supportive of President Jokowi’s many initiatives.
Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) researcher Arya Fernandes said that the U-20 controversy had shifted the dynamic between PDI-P and the president.
“Even before [the U-20 controversy], the relationship between Jokowi and the PDI-P has had a lot of ups and downs”, Arya told the Post on Monday. Even if President Jokowi is making an effort to break free of the PDI-P’s influence, both Firman and Arya believed that the party’s future manoeuvring could very well decide the future of this proposed joint coalition.
“We’ll have to wait and see, but we expect talks [between the five parties] are going to get more intense,” Prabowo said.
Read also: U-20 bust shows Jokowi has a rocky road ahead
While Jokowi insists that coalition talks are out of his purview, the President indicated that a hypothetical massive coalition would be in the interest of the public. “A coalition [between the KIB and KIR] is a good match, but it’s up to the party chairmen to decide”, President Jokowi told reporters after the iftar event. “For the good of the nation and the people, it would be better if [the parties] could collectively work together.”
Speaking at the gathering, Zulkifli expressed his gratitude to Jokowi, the first sitting President to have visited PAN’s headquarters in the party’s history, and reiterated the commitment of the five parties in attendance to secure the legacy of President Jokowi’s administration
“If we could consolidate our spirit and our commitment in this political year, then we could usher in a strong and robust national coalition,” Zulkifli said in his speech.
Golkar chairman Airlangga Hartarto, who first mentioned the idea of a massive coalition during an iftar event at NasDem’s headquarters last week was also supportive of the proposal. “We’re all part of the government’s coalition, including the House of Representatives, and we’re all ready to continue the program of the [Jokowi administration].”
Currently, the big-tent government coalition holds 471 out of 575 seats in the House of Representatives, forming a supermajority. (ahw)