Puan Maharani (L), PDI-P leader and Chairwoman Megawati Sukarnoputri’s daughter has revealed a shortlist of potential VP running mates for Ganjar Pranowo. (Photo: ANTON RAHARJO / Anadolu Agency via AFP)

Ganjar Pranowo’s Running Mate: What’s in PDI-P’s Playbook?


While his party has come up with a shortlist of potential running mates, the decision as to who will run with Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo to be his vice-president will most likely lie with none other than a former president who is Ganjar’s party boss.

Puan Maharani, Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) leader and Chairwoman Megawati Sukarnoputri’s daughter, has revealed a shortlist of potential vice-presidential (VP) running mates for PDI-P’s presidential candidate Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo. Four of the five potential candidates head or are supported by a major political party (See table below.) State-Owned Enterprises Minister Erick Thohir has topped the latest prospective VP popularity poll, but it is not certain that he will be selected as Ganjar’s running mate.

PDI-P’s Shortlisted Vice-Presidential Candidates

Name/PositionRecent rank in polls (by %)Affiliation and other details
Erick Thohir, 53

Minister, State-Owned Enterprises
19Proposed by National Mandate Party (PAN)
Sandiaga Uno, 54

Minister, Tourism and Creative Economy
14Chairman, United Development Party (PPP) 2024 election campaign team
On Forbes 2013 list of Indonesia’s 50 Richest
Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, 4512General Chairman, Democrat Party (PD) Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s son
Gen (Ret.) Andika Perkasa, 584Former TNI Commander
Gen (Ret.) Hendropriyono’s son-in-law
Muhaimin Iskandar, 561General Chairman, National Awakening Party (PKB)
Source: Author’s compilation from public sources

Initially, the inclusion of National Awakening Party (PKB)’s Muhaimin Iskandar and Democrat Party (PD)’s Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, both party chairmen, on this list was inextricably linked to PDI-P’s strategy of undermining the rival coalitions’ dynamics. However, the inclusion of Golkar and National Mandate Party (PAN) in Prabowo’s camp has rendered PDI-P’s strategy of recruiting PKB less effective. With a significant boost from Golkar and PAN, Prabowo can now be nominated as president, with or without PKB’s backing. However, PDI-P’s strategy can still apply if Agus’ Democrats join PDI-P, thereby isolating Anies Baswedan, as Anies will then be unable to find sufficient party support to secure a nomination for the 2024 presidential election (PE).

PDI-P is the only party that can nominate candidates for PE 2024 without needing to form a coalition with other parties, so its primary consideration in identifying a VP candidate would be who can compensate for Ganjar’s shortcomings electorally.

Ganjar already enjoys strong support from PKB’s East and Central Java constituencies. Nevertheless, the PDI-P needs a VP candidate who can help Ganjar to draw more Muslim votes. However, Muhaimin’s electability is very low and he has a strained relationship with Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) General Chairman Yahya Cholil Staquf. (Yahya is close to Erick, which was reportedly why Muhaimin’s PKB had flatly rejected Erick as Prabowo’s running mate.)

Agus is notably more electable as a VP candidate than Muhaimin, running at 12 per cent electability versus the latter’s single percentage point. The lukewarm relationship between Megawati and Agus’ father, former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, however, has made it difficult for Ganjar and Agus to team up.

Notwithstanding this, naming Muhaimin and Agus as possible VP candidates is a sound strategy. A reason for Prabowo’s strong polling performance is that Ganjar’s supporters are overly dominated by PDI-P constituents. Ganjar has not widened his voter base to attract constituents from other parties; PDI-P is a party seen as arrogant and exclusive. As such, Puan has more actively approached other parties, including courting PD and PKB’s chairmen, to be Ganjar’s running mate. Even if they are not selected, PDI-P has in effect broken the ice for a potential coalition (to lay the groundwork for a potential run-off in a two-round PE).

Sandiaga and Erick are leading contenders because they are backed by Islamic parties and are influential in certain Islamic organisations; they hail from outside Java and are seen as capable campaign fundraisers. Megawati’s strategy would likely follow the conventional wisdom of pairing a nationalist-Islam and Javanese-non-Java combination to win the most votes. Ganjar is a secular nationalist from Central Java. Sandiaga is from Gorontalo and was proposed by the United Development Party (PPP), making him attractive to conservative Muslim voters. PPP was the first party to endorse Ganjar for president. Erick is of Lampung descent and is linked to NU.

As noted, Erick ranks first in terms of electability. His success as the chair of Indonesia’s National Football Association (PSSI), including the national team winning gold at the recent SEA Games in Cambodia, has won the public’s attention. Erick has the advantage with support from Gen Z and millennial respondents, which would complement Ganjar, who is dominant among older voters. While seemingly trivial, Ganjar would require the support of football fans who are Erick’s natural voter base, especially after Ganjar’s gaffe rejecting the Israeli youth soccer team.

Erick’s close friendship with and strong endorsement from Jokowi is an additional advantage. Erick, the former chairman of the 2019 Jokowi-Ma’ruf Amin National Campaign Team and the president’s known favourite, could be a trump card for Ganjar to secure Jokowi’s full support. This is crucial because Jokowi appears to have given Prabowo a recent boost with frequent photo opportunities and other hints. Jokowi could even have suggested that Erick be Prabowo’s running mate: the president frequently brings the two men together at events.

With two months to go before official PE campaigning starts, it is still anyone’s guess as to who will get the shot.

However, Erick’s weakness is that he was proposed by PAN, the party that declared Prabowo its preferred presidential candidate. Also, according to Tempo, Erick’s camp is deemed to have blamed PDI-P for Indonesia losing its FIFA Under-20 World Cup host rights, which dented Ganjar’s popularity months ago (from which his polling numbers have not recovered).

There is a chance Megawati might not agree with any names on the shortlist. She reportedly prefers an older VP candidate who will not impede PDI-P, that is, by running for president in the 2029 elections. Ganjar is 54, which means she may prefer Andika (58) or Muhaimin (56), not the three who are younger. As her party’s kingmaker, Megawati will ultimately determine Ganjar’s running mate. With two months to go before official PE campaigning starts, it is still anyone’s guess as to who will get the shot.


Burhanuddin Muhtadi is Visiting Fellow in the Indonesia Studies Programme, ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute, and Senior Lecturer at Islamic State University (UIN) Syarif Hidayatullah.