VP talks intensify as three-way race takes shape in Indonesia

Talks about who will run as Prabowo’s running mate are expected to have been challenging, as major parties in the alliance have rallied to have their preferred candidate named as his running mate.

Yerica Lai

Yerica Lai

The Jakarta Post


A mother and her children drive past a billboard with 2024 general election promotional material on Aug. 11, 2023, in Cibinong, Bogor regency, West Java. PHOTO: ANTARA/ THE JAKARTA POST

September 20, 2023

JAKARTA – As alliance building appears to have crystallized into three electoral blocs following the opposition Democratic Party’s decision to join the pro-Prabowo Subianto camp, talks about who will be nominated to fill the remaining vice presidential spots are expected to kick into high gear.

The recent decision of the largest opposition party, the Democratic Party, to join the Gerindra Party-led alliance backing Prabowo has closed the door on an alternative electoral alliance backing a fourth presidential and vice presidential pair, allowing parties to shift their focus to finalizing their nominations.

The Democrats supporting Defense Minister Prabowo represented an unexpected shift in alliance building ahead of February’s polls as they essentially swapped positions with the National Awakening Party (PKB), whose chairman Muhaimin Iskandar was named as the running mate of presumptive presidential candidate Anies Baswedan.

With Anies and Muhaimin now the first confirmed pairing for February’s election, all eyes are now on who will run alongside the two other likely presidential candidates, Prabowo and former Central Java governor Ganjar Pranowo of the largest pro-government party, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), as their running mates.

The hardest or easiest?

With the Democrats joining, Prabowo now leads the largest electoral alliance, dubbed the Indonesia Onward Coalition. Its members include his own party Gerindra, the Golkar Party, the National Mandate Party (PAN) and other smaller parties that do not hold seats at the House of Representatives, the Crescent Star Party (PBB), the Gelora Party and the Garuda Party.

Talks about who will run as Prabowo’s running mate are expected to have been challenging as major parties in the alliance have rallied to have their preferred candidate named as his running mate.

Read also: Democrats throw support behind Prabowo

Golkar has been vying to nominate its own chairman Airlangga Hartarto as Prabowo’s running mate, while PAN has put forth State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) Minister Erick Thohir, whose family was a main donor to President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s campaigns in the last two elections.

Asked about the prospect of tough negotiations surrounding the vice presidential spot, head of Gerindra’s central board Sufmi Dasco Ahmad stressed that alliance members had handed over the selection of the VP to Prabowo.

“Prabowo will, of course, consult with alliance members regarding the potential names,” Dasco said on Monday.

Outsiders being considered by the alliance include PDI-P politician Gibran Rakabuming Raka, the eldest son of Jokowi, who analysts say could serve as a middle-ground option, and Yenny Wahid, daughter of late president and Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) chairman Abdurrahman “Gus Dur” Wahid, whose camp is rival to Muhaimin.

The possibility of the 35-year-old Surakarta mayor joining next year’s presidential election has recently gained traction among Prabowo’s camp as the Constitutional Court reviews the General Elections Law over whether to lower the minimum age requirements for candidates from 40 to 35.

Read also: Gibran gains traction as potential VP candidate for 2024

A political analyst however argued that Prabowo’s camp would have the easiest way of negotiating the vice presidential slot given the perception that the formation of Prabowo’s grand alliance, which has branded itself as “team Jokowi”, was at the behest of the President.

If that is the case, “the final decision on the vice presidential candidate could possibly involve just a few people. Members of the grand alliance are likely to accept the decision”, analyst Dedi Kurnia Syah said.

Prabowo, Dedi said, now “appears to be waiting for the decision of the court regarding the age limit for vice presidents” to decide whether he would pair up with Gibran.

“If the court decides to not lower the age limit, those who will be ready to negotiate the spots are Airlangga, Erick and possibly new faces from NU circles to contest against Muhaimin,” Dedi said.

Narrowing down

After the Democrats joined Prabowo’s camp, the PDI-P-led alliance backing Ganjar’s presidential bid narrowed down its shortlist of potential VPs, removing Democratic Party chairman Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, as well as former West Java governor Ridwan Kamil of Golkar, from the list.

Read also: Ridwan, Agus no longer in running to join Ganjar on PDI-P ticket: Puan

Both Ridwan and Agus were previously on PDI-P matron Megawati Soekarnoputri’s list of potential candidates to run as Ganjar’s running mate when the list was publicly revealed in June.

Four other names who are currently still in consideration are Minister Erick, Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Mahfud MD, who is an NU-affiliated figure, Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Sandiaga Uno and former Indonesian Military chief Andika Perkasa, according to the PDI-P executive and Megawati’s daughter Puan Maharani on Monday.

Analyst Dedi said while Ganjar’s camp appeared to only have limited options for vice presidential candidates, there was still a possibility that Ganjar would run with a name that has not yet been unveiled to the public, such as NU chairman Yahya Cholil Staquf.

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