These sides include the “old” traditional political elite such as Megawati Soekarnoputri, who is General Chairwoman of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), currently the biggest political party (and which supports incumbent President Joko Widodo in the upcoming presidential election).

Starting from the early 1990s, Megawati, daughter of Indonesia’s first president Soekarno, became particularly popular among those who opposed Suharto’s authoritarian New Order regime (becoming an icon of opposition against Suharto). Her popularity declined after she had been Indonesia’s 5th president (2001-2004) as her presidency was marked with a high degree of indecisiveness, a lack of clear ideological direction, and a reputation for inaction on important policy issues. Her party, however, remained a strong force in Indonesian politics after 2004 (although losing much popular support in the 2004 and 2009 elections). The party made a strong comeback in the 2014 legislative election (on the back of Widodo’s popularity). The PDI-P is expected to remain the biggest political party in the 2019 election.

Also former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) can now be labelled a member of the “old traditional political elite” after having served the country in two presidential terms from 2004 to 2014 (despite him having a military background). SBY is still very much involved in politics as leader of the Democratic Party (PD), a party that has been in a state of decline in recent years. Not only did a series of corruption scandals near the end of SBY’s second presidential term impact heavily on the PD’s popularity but it also has problems finding a new leading face.

Originally, the PD was set up as the political vehicle for SBY to drive him to the presidential palace. But now SBY cannot run for president (as there is a two-term limit to the Indonesian presidency), the party lost a big part of its following. SBY has been striving to push forward his son – Agus Yudhoyono - into the political arena to allow his family to remain part of the oligarchic political system. However, Agus Yudhoyono cannot enjoy the popularity that his father once enjoyed because his accomplishments (particularly in politics) are zero. Moreover, Agus seems to be a weak debater and lacks charisma (possibly partly because of his young age).


This articles discusses:

the various forces (nationalists, traditional elite, Islam) that are battling for power
update on the road to the 2019 legislative and presidential elections (particularly the recent events that happened in both coalitions)
Indonesia Investments poll (Widodo stays ahead but saw his lead slightly narrow)

Read the full article in the December 2018 edition of our monthly research report. You can purchase this report by sending an email to or a WhatsApp message to the following number: +62(0)8788.410.6944