The Indonesian presidential election, scheduled for 9 July 2014, is most likely to become a battle between Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and Prabowo Subianto. Although this had already been expected as both men can rely on popular support (according to various surveys) and have the political backing of important political parties, a number of developments on Tuesday (13/05) seem to confirm this expectation. Moreover, there is more clarity about the vice-presidential candidates that will join the July election.
In Indonesian presidential elections, a presidential candidate and vice-presidential candidate run as a fixed inseparable pair that has the backing of a political party that secured at least 25 percent of the popular vote in the legislative election (which was held on 9 April 2014). However, if there is no political party that meets that 25 percent-threshold, then parties need to form a coalition - consisting of at least two parties - to meet the threshold and is thus able to nominate a pair for the presidential election. This scenario is what happened after the winner of the Indonesian legislative election, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), could only secure 19.0 percent of the vote.
Prior to the legislative election, the PDI-P had already announced that Jokowi, the highly popular Governor of Jakarta, would be its presidential candidate. Given his popularity, it was expected that the PDI-P would clinch a huge victory in the legislative election (as a vote for the PDI-P implied a vote for Jokowi as next Indonesian president) and therefore the 19.0 percent outcome was actually quite disappointing for the party. But despite the disappointing outcome, the PDI-P continued to back Jokowi as its presidential candidate and found its coalition partners in the NasDem Party and the National Awakening Party (PKB). The NasDem Party is a new political party founded by media tycoon Surya Paloh and can be labeled a secular party (similar to the PDI-P) implying that it supports democracy, nationalism and religious pluralism. The PKB is a moderate Islamic party which has close ties to the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), Indonesia's largest Muslim organization (traditionalist Sunni Islam).
However, Jokowi's running mate (the vice-presidential candidate) still remains a question mark. Jusuf Kalla (a former vice-president and businessman) is one of the names that is frequently mentioned as a possible candidate. Despite his age (71), many regard him as a good candidate as he enjoys popular support as well as ample experience in politics and business. One problem, however, is that Kalla is closely related to the Golkar party being a former chairman. In fact, it has often been speculated that Kalla would be the presidential nominee of the Golkar party for the 2014 presidential election because current chairman Aburizal Bakrie lacks popularity as some of his companies have been linked to corruption cases as well as other scandals (such as the huge mud flow in Sidoarjo, East Java).
Therefore, the Jokowi-Kalla pair without the participation of the Golkar party in the coalition would raise some eyebrows. However, in the last couple of days, more and more news stories spread that Golkar will cooperate or perhaps even join the coalition with the PDI-D, NasDem and PKB. This would then pave the way for the Jokowi-Kalla pair, a pair that is expected to enjoy popularity among Indonesians, although it would leave Aburizal Bakrie, who has high political aspirations of his own, empty-handed.
Yesterday (13/05), Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono approved Jokowi's request for a holiday from his activities as Governor of Jakarta in order to focus on his presidential bid. Jokowi's running mate is expected to be announced soon, perhaps even today (14/05).
Previously, a coalition between Golkar and the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) was expected. Gerindra, the political vehicle of Prabowo Subianto (former special forces commander and former son-in-law of Suharto), performed well in the legislative election (securing 11.8 percent of the vote), and Subianto is a popular yet controversial candidate for the presidency. He enjoys popularity as he is considered a strong leader (and many Indonesians feel that Indonesia currently lacks a strong leader who can push for higher economic growth and social justice). However, he is controversial because as army leader he is linked to human rights violations in Jakarta (1998) and East Timor (early 1980s). A problem that emerged in case of a Golkar-Gerindra coalition is the question of who would be the presidential and vice-presidential candidate as both Aburizal Bakrie and Prabowo Subianto have high ambitions. Reportedly, Subianto ended these coalition talks between both sides.
However, a new reality emerged yesterday (13/05) when Hatta Rajasa, currently the Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs and Chairman of the PAN party, requested to step down from his ministerial position (which was approved by President Yudhoyono). Although it is yet to be officially declared, it seems quite certain that Rajasa will be the running mate of Subianto in the July election. This pair will have the political backing from the Gerindra-PAN-PKS-PPP coalition. The PAN, PKS, and PPP are three Islamic parties that support a stronger role of Islam in politics and society. As such, the battle between Jokowi and Subianto also seems to be a battle between the secular and Islamic fractions within Indonesian society.
The latest survey of Indikator Politik Indonesia indicates that the Jokowi-Kalla pair would secure 51 percent of the vote if the election would be held today, followed by the Prabowo-Hatta pair (32 percent), while 17 percent of respondents declined to choose.
Indonesian Legislative Election 2014:
• Indonesian Politics: the Presidential Candidates' Running Mates
• Official Result of the Indonesian Legislative Election 2014 Released
• Joko Widodo Expected to Announce Running Mate for Indonesian Elections
• Golkar-Gerindra Coalition's President: Aburizal Bakrie or Prabowo Subianto?
• Indonesian Politics Update: PKB Approaches PDI-P to Form Coalition
• Parliamentary Election in Indonesia; Overview of Popular Political Parties
• Indonesian Politics
• Analysis of Quick Count Results of the Indonesian Legislative Election 2014
• Can Joko Widodo Accelerate the Democratization Process in Indonesia?
• Indonesia’s 2014 Presidential Candidates; a Profile of Aburizal Bakrie
• Towards Indonesia's Presidential Elections: a Profile of Prabowo Subianto
• The Tough Road of Yudhoyono's Democratic Party towards the 2014 Elections