Jakarta — While several politicians are still talking about the possibility of having more than one contestant pair in next year’s presidential election, the incumbent Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo and former army general Prabowo Subianto are still widely anticipated as being on top for the upcoming race. If it becomes a reality, the popular vote that will take place in 17 April 2019 could become a ‘dogfight’ rematch between the two old ‘foes’. Meanwhile, also on the same day, voters in many provinces across the country will simultaneously elect national and regional legislators.
As for the presidential election, political parties or coalition of parties will have to officially submit their presidential and vice presidential nominees on 4-8 August of this year. This is according to existing National General Election (KPU) rules. The tough-looking Prabowo, who is reportedly still on the American black-list for human rights violation allegations, narrowly lost to Jokowi in 2014 following cut-throat election campaigns. Ever since, his Gerindra party has bitterly assumed the mantle of opposition party and has been mounting allegedly unfounded criticisms about the current administration’s performance, which raged many of the President Jokowi’s supporters.
And so, this coming August will no doubt provide a renewed thrill for the public if Jokowi and Prabowo, along with their respective supporting parties, show up at the National Election Commission (KPU) to register themselves, and their running mate, to contest in 2019. But, unlike Jokowi, who is the famous ‘common man of the people’, Prabowo has yet to receive formal declaration of support from most political parties including from the Gerindra Party which he founded and still leads as general chairman.
Gerindra’s top officials said it would formally declare him its presidential candidate only this month amid last week’s reports that Prabowo was also considering to not run next year due to his age and other factors like public survey results on bout his electability and the financial cost of his presidential campaign. For some, such reports, which quoted Gerindra’s senior official who is also Prabowo’s younger brother Hashim Djojo Hadikusumo, were merely a gimmick for the party leader. Prabowo will be 67 years of age this coming October, compared to the 57-year old Jokowi.
Beside Gerindra, four smallest political parties at the House have signaled their support for Prabowo. They are religious-oriented PKS, PPP and PKB as well as nationalist PAN. Meanwhile, Gerindra is hoping that Partai Demokrat, which was founded and is still led by former president and ex-army general Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, will come on board. This is according to Gerindra’s Fadli Zon, who is also the parliament’s vice chairman, as reported by Tempo.co.
Currently, forming a coalition is a must for any political party that intends to submit a presidential candidate and his or her running mate. Existing election law stipulates that in order to propose a president and vice president candidate, a political party (or coalition of parties) must have at least 20 percent of seats at parliament or obtained 25 percent of the votes in the 2014 election. This only means that PDI-P and Gerindra has no choice other than to form a coalition with other parties so as secure enough seats for nominating a candidate.
Although it forms the largest parliament faction, PDI-P controls just 19.5 percent or 109 seats at the parliament. Meanwhile, Gerindra holds only 13 percent or 73 seats, making it the third largest House faction, below Golkar Party (16.3 percent). In February of this year, PDI-P officially declared Jokowi as its presidential candidate after four other parties – Nasdem, Golkar, PPP and Hanura – had in separate occasions formally announced their support for Jokowi’s reelection. It remains unclear why the PDI-P was relatively late – some seven months behind the other parties – in announcing the move.
Nasdem now holds 6.3 percent of DPR seats as compared with Golkar’s 16.3 percent, PPP’s 7 percent, and Hanura’s 2.9 percent. Nasdem, which was founded and is chaired by Indonesia’s media tycoon Surya Paloh, officially nominated Jokowi for the upcoming presidential contest last August. It was the first political party that made such a big move. Together, Nasdem and the other four parties form 45.7 percent of DPR’s total seats, currently, well up from the required 20 percent threshold.
Meanwhile, if officially materialized, Gerindra’s five-party coalition will account for 44.1 percent, slightly below the PDI-P’s alliance. But, support for Prabowo will be higher than 44.1 percent if Partai Demokrat also comes on board.
Jokowi and polls
Amid ongoing claims that Prabowo’s narrow loss to Jokowi in 2014 had been due to election fraud, public opinion surveys have helped keep optimisms concerning Jokowi’s chances.
Conducting their surveys mostly from the last quarter of 2017, the majority of those pollsters said Jokowi could next year be able to beat Prabowo for the second time. Jokowi is perceived to have good performance in managing the country, which will be the factor behind voters’ reason to pick him, according to survey respondents.
SMRC, Poltracking, LSI Denny JA, Orkestra, Media and IDM were among the pollsters conducting such surveys since last year. IDM was the only one saying that Prabowo would be able to defeat Jokowi. SMRC announced in January of this year the results of a poll it had just carried out. It said Jokowi’s electability reached 53 percent, well up from Prabowo’s 18.5 percent. According to a report by Tribunnews.com, the 53 percent was an increase from the 45.6 percent turned out by SMRC’s survey in September 2017,
Meanwhile, a poll carried out by LSI Denny JA last November put Jokowi’s electability at 38.4 percent, well above Prabowo’s 24.6 percent. The survey also showed that 7.5 percent went to retiring Armed Forces (TNI) Commander Army General Gatot Nurmantyo. But, for Prabowo and Gerindra, public opinion surveys could mean too little, if not nothing, about the reality on the ground. “We can order polling as far as we can pay for it. “You guys conduct a poll, you give me 80 percent,” he said.
Prabowo and his senior officials including the quick-witted and sharp-tongued Fadli Zon have over the past months aired loudly what they view as Jokowi administration’s failures. Prabowo himself mentioned the current government’s inability to alleviate poverty, reduce economic gap and manage resource control against the domination of local and ‘foreign powers.’
Gerindra leaders also claimed that poverty in Indonesia was rising because Jokowi had concentrated only on his massive infrastructure program. Mentioning Papua Province as an example, Fadli Zon said the government’s massive road projects in Indonesia’s easternmost region had led it to neglect the short-term welfare of people in the area. Fadli Zon was referring to the widely reported measles-and malnutrition outbreak in the resource-rich province a couple of months ago.
They also questioned why Indonesia’s annual economic growth had reached only about 5 percent in the past few years, well below the 7-8 percent and even the double-digit levels promised by the President in his election campaign in 2014. The government has set an official growth target of only 5.4 percent in the 2018 state budget. Indonesia’s economy grew 5.07 percent in 2017, 5.03 percent in 2-16, 4.88 percent in 2015, and 5.03 percent in 2014.
Against all those harsh attacks and the rising maneuvers by all the political parties to secure their position in the upcoming presidential election, President Jokowi had repetitively and publicly said he would just focus on implementing his development programs until his term of office ends next year. But, whether he really means it is anyone’s guess.
Professor Syamsuddin Haris from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) said the President should do his utmost to fulfill all the promises he had made (in his 2014 election campaign). In his opinion article in Kompas daily, he said that in order for him to win “the President’s priority should be to make use of the 18-month of the ending part of his term to fulfill his political promises.”