There is quite some controversial material to discuss after the Constitutional Court of Indonesia (Mahkamah Konstitusi, or MK) paved the way for incumbent President Joko Widodo’s eldest son, Gibran Rakabuming Raka (henceforth Gibran), to team up with Gerindra Chairman Prabowo Subianto in the presidential race.
First, back to the basics. The 2024 presidential and legislative elections are a very important moment in Indonesian history as we will see a new Indonesian president after Widodo will end his decade of rule (2014-2024). Considering Indonesian law only allows two presidential terms (five years, each), Widodo is not able to compete in this race.
Having a new person at the steering wheel in this young (and pluralist) democracy could have big implications for the investment environment if policies take a drastic turn, and that is why it is important to take a closer look at recent developments.
Moreover, we now have certainty about the presidential and vice-presidential pairs that are running in the upcoming 2024 election (in Indonesian presidential elections the presidential and vice-presidential pairs run as fixed, inseparable couples). With the registration deadline recently being moved to 25 October 2023, three pairs were officially registered at the General Elections Commission (Komisi Pemilihan Umum, or KPU) in the second half of October 2023. These pairs are: (1) Anies Baswedan and Muhaimin Iskandar, (2) Ganjar Pranowo and Mahfud MD, and (3) Prabowo Subianto and Gibran.
And so, we now also know the exact composition of political party coalitions behind these three pairs. As expected, the Democratic Party (Partai Demokrat, or PD) made a sudden shift from the ‘Coalition of Change’ (that supports the Anies Baswedan and Muhaimin Iskandar pair) to the ‘Coalition Advance Indonesia’ (supporting Prabowo Subianto and Gibran). Two other relatively influential parties – Golkar and National Mandate Party or PAN – also decided to join the Subianto coalition in the end.
This means that the Prabowo-Gibran coalition managed to gather a lot of political support (see table 2) compared to the other coalitions. This certainly is an advantage for Prabowo’s presidential ambitions, and – sort of – puts him on pole position in the race. As we mentioned in an earlier article, many (if not most) Indonesian voters will vote in the presidential election based on the person they like the most (character, image, and presented ideas), even if this person is not the presidential candidate of the voter’s preferred political party. And so it will happen that someone votes Golkar in the legislative election, but votes Ganjar Pranowo in the presidential election.
And therefore, the race is certainly far from decided. Still, it is an advantage to have a lot of political backing because the bigger political parties have the networks (well into urban areas and the countryside) and money to influence voters. For example, a party (through a representative or affiliated person, which can be a neighborhood head locally known as Pak RT) can repair a road in a neighborhood in exchange for votes. While not all people can be influenced in their voting behavior, it does at least influence some of them, hence large political backing is a clear advantage.
What is also interesting is that the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), which is the largest party based on the 2019 legislative election, seems quite isolated as it can only rely on the backing of smaller parties (such as the United Development Party, PPP). Moreover, the relevance of PPP in Indonesian politics has been sliding ever since the end of the Suharto regime in 1998. In fact, PPP might be unable to pass the threshold of 4 percent (to receive seats in parliament) in the 2024 election (if a party does not obtain 4 percent of the votes, it fails to get a seat in parliament).
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