Indonesia 2024: Coalition Manoeuvres Heading for A Single Presidential Candidate?
More elaborate politicking for the 2024 presidential race in Indonesia has not thrown up a clear frontrunner; watch this space.
With the 2024 presidential and general elections (GE) just one year away, coalition fever has started in Indonesia. Under current law, the presidential and vice-presidential teams can be nominated only by a party or a coalition of parties winning more than 25 per cent of the overall vote-share or holding more than 20 per cent of parliamentary (DPR) seats. Only the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) led by Megawati Sukarnoputri has this advantage, with 128 of the 575 DPR seats (22 per cent). The other eight parties in parliament will have to form coalitions.
In the 2024 elections, an additional factor is at play compared to 2014 and 2019. This time around, there are no clear leading candidates – unlike Joko Widodo and Prabowo Subianto in the previous two races. Most figures considered to be presidential possibilities are scoring between 15 per cent and 25 per cent in most electability (elektabilitas) polls. No one is scoring a decisive share above 30-40 per cent threshold. Even in 2014 and 2019, the largest party – the PDI-P – with its popular candidate, Joko Widodo, had formed a coalition to nominate him.
For the 2024 race, the first parties to form a coalition were Gerindra, led by Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto and the National Awakening Party (PKB), led by Muhaimin Iskandar. Both parties are part of the current governing coalition. Together, these two parties control 136 seats in the DPR (or 23.6 per cent) and can team up to nominate candidates for the presidential election (PE). The Gerindra-PKB coalition was formed in August 2022, forming a Joint Secretariat in January 2023. They did not announce any candidates then, although it was widely assumed that Prabowo would be their presidential nominee.
At this stage, this grand coalition could still fall apart and nominations revert to the prerogative of other small coalitions.
Gerindra’s coalition with PKB is clearly aimed at boosting Prabowo’s support in East Java, where he scored low in 2019 and where the PKB is strong. The formation of the coalition was associated with Prabowo taking a tour of East Java, where he met various figures from the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), a mass religious organisation with longstanding links to the PKB.
More recently, the National Democrats (NasDem), the Democratic Party (PD) and the Justice and Welfare Party (PKS) formed the Change Coalition for Unity (KPUP), which announced that it would support Anies Baswedan for president. Former governor of Jakarta, Baswedan has PKS and Gerindra support but was a campaign spokesperson for Widodo in 2014. There has been no announcement of a vice-presidential candidate, but rumours abound that the KPUP will look for a candidate from East Java with links from NU. Of these three parties, only NasDem is in the government, but together, they have 148 DPR seats (or 25.7 per cent).
With these two coalitions formed, Prabowo and Baswedan became feasible nominees.
Developments further evolved when the chairpersons of five parties in government met and announced they would form a Grand Coalition (Koalisi Besar). The five parties were Golkar, Gerindra, the National Mandate Party (PAN), PKB, and the United Development Party (PPP). Megawati – PDI-P – was absent; PDI-P figures claimed that this was because she was in Japan. They added that Megawati would host the next coalition meeting.
If the PDIP also is a member of such a grand coalition, it opens the possibility that the current governing coalition – minus NasDem – will nominate one pair of presidential and vice-presidential candidates. However, there also have been news reports that efforts are being made to lure NasDem back into the fold. If NasDem joined a grand coalition of the current governing parties, there would only be one presidential candidate in 2024, as the PD and PKS by themselves would not have enough seats to nominate a candidate.
Who might such a grand coalition nominate? In a recent edition of the national Tempo magazine, they featured a meeting of Joko Widodo with Prabowo and prominent PDI-P figure, Ganjar Pranowo, Governor of Central Java. The Tempo report asked if Widodo favoured a PE pairing of Prabowo and Ganjar. Prabowo, Ganjar, and Baswedan are the three presidential hopefuls scoring most highly in polls.
A spokesperson for PKB stated that it may be a challenge for all six (or seven, with NasDem) parties in such a coalition to agree on their PE candidates. At this stage, this grand coalition could still fall apart and nominations revert to the prerogative of other small coalitions. More controversially, Tempo also reported that there were still those who preferred that Joko Widodo stand again or legislate to extend his presidency.
None of these manoeuvres revolves around differences in programmatic or policy outlook for the country. Rather, they are based on calculations about which combinations will secure an electoral victory and provide the basis for a party to hold important positions in the incoming government. Anything is possible in Indonesian politics.
Max Lane is Visiting Senior Fellow at the ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute. He is the author of “An Introduction to the Politics of the Indonesian Union Movement” (ISEAS 2019) and the editor of “Continuity and Change after Indonesia’s Reforms: Contributions to an Ongoing Assessment” (ISEAS 2019). His newest book is “Indonesia Out of Exile: How Pramoedya’s Buru Quartet Killed a Dictatorship”, (Penguin Random House, 2022).