January 4, 2023
JAKARTA – Indonesia is bracing for a tumultuous political year in 2023 as parties gear up for the upcoming general elections next year, raising fears of heightened uncertainty that analysts say could derail the nation’s economic recovery.
Voters are expected to choose a new president in 2024, with President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo constitutionally barred from seeking a third term. Political parties, however, have until Nov. 25 to decide which candidates they will endorse to replace Jokowi, during which party elites are expected to engage in a political tug of war and horse-trading in their attempts to build alliances for the electoral contest.
Most parties in the ruling coalition have yet to nominate their presidential candidates, while those which have are still leaving the door open for changes.
The Gerindra Party and the National Awakening Party (PKB) have officially nominated Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto as their presidential candidate, but it is unclear if the political alliance will last until the last day of presidential-election registration. Gerindra has left open the possibility of pairing Prabowo with non-PKB candidates.
The NasDem Party, meanwhile, has declared former Jakarta governor and opposition figure Anies Baswedan as its presidential nominee, a political move that may cost it several Cabinet seats. The party is now seeking to build an alliance with the opposition parties, the Democratic Party and the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), to be able to field Anies, which is contingent on their choice of his running mate.
The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) and the Golkar Party, the largest parties in the ruling coalition, have yet to announce their presidential nominees. They have expressed their intention to endorse either Prabowo, Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo or House of Representatives Speaker Puan Maharani.
Political analyst Adi Prayitno of the Syarif Hidayatullah Islamic State University (UIN) expects that the political situation in 2023 will only heat up as there were already signs of conflict in 2022.
“Elites from the PDI-P and NasDem have started to openly engage in conflict, with the PDI-P asking NasDem to exit from the coalition and hoping that the President will remove NasDem ministers from the Cabinet”, said Adi.
While NasDem was originally part of the government coalition led by the PDI-P, the party has since broken ranks by backing Anies. President Jokowi has already signaled an impending Cabinet reshuffle, fueling speculation that he will finally show the door to Cabinet members from NasDem.
The intra-elite conflict, however, goes beyond the PDI-P-NasDem rivalry.
Tensions are reportedly brewing between President Jokowi and PDI-P chairwoman Megawati Soekarnoputri over the question of who the party will endorse for 2024. The President has insinuated his preference for his fellow PDI-P member Ganjar as his potential successor, while Megawati seems hesitant to lend his support for the Central Java governor despite his high electability rates. Ganjar is reportedly competing with Puan and Prabowo for Megawati’s blessing and thus the PDI-P nomination.
While the elites squabble over presidential nominations, the online community has become increasingly divided over the two most popular candidates according to political pollsters: Anies and Ganjar.
Adi, however, sees this kind of polarization, particularly on social media, as expected in an electoral democracy. “What’s important is how to avoid narratives based on lies, hate and enmity. As long as the competition is based on their [merit], it’s fine”, he said.
He further added that the public tended to be rational and more politically aware, so even if political buzzers continue to try and sow division on social media, Adi expects that it will not bleed into real life.
Uncertainties in an election year will undoubtedly have an impact on the economy, especially regarding investments according to Center of Reform on Economics (CORE) Indonesia executive director Mohammad Faisal.
“In the year approaching an election, businesses will hold off on any major decisions until there’s clarity on who the next president is”, said Faisal. But the effect will not be identical, with Faisal saying that certain long-term investments, especially those away from population centers such as mining and smelters, will not be affected much by the uncertainties.
Institute for Development Economics and Finance (Indef) director Tauhid Ahmad concurred, saying that uncertainty in a political year, whether regarding the candidates or among the public, will prompt market players to hold off on any investment or business decisions. “The market is wary of heightened uncertainty, not to mention the current global situation and inflation”, said Tauhid.
The next administration’s economic policies, potential conflict among the public in a political year and how the market views each candidate are some questions that will weigh on investors’ minds according to Tauhid.
With party elites jostling each other for the nation’s top job, it is likely that the presidential election will set the political temperature in 2023. “They’re pretty chill about the legislative elections. But when it comes to the presidential election, [the parties] are very much open for a political brawl”. (ahw)