While according to the opinion polls incumbent President Joko Widodo has a big lead over his (seemingly only) rival Prabowo Subianto for the 2019 presidential election, he declines to comment on the race. Instead Widodo - often called Jokowi - chooses to remain focused on work as "a lot has not been completed yet".
In the latest Indo Barometer survey a total of 48.8 percent of respondents indicated that they would vote for Widodo if the election were to be held today. At a significant distance comes Gerindra party Chairman Prabowo Subianto with 22.3 percent of respondents' vote.
A similar distance is reflected by the latest Poltracking Indonesia survey in which Widodo can count on 57.6 percent of respondents' vote, while 33.7 percent indicated that they would vote for Subianto as president for the 2019-2024 period.
At this moment there seem no other candidates that could join the race for the presidential seat in the 2019 election. Considering the PDI-P, Golkar, NasDem, PPP, and PKB have already announced to throw their support behind Widodo, while Gerindra and PKS are expected to back Subianto, there are indeed too few parties left to come up with another credible candidate. And if this candidate is found, then for sure he would stand no chance in the race. Therefore, it is likely that all parties will support either Widodo or Subianto. The only significant force that is seemingly still in doubt about the 2019 election candidate is Partai Demokrat (PD), the political vehicle of former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY). Most likely this party is eager to seek a vice presidential role for Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono (the son of SBY) in the 2019 election.
Hence, the real battle that is going on at the moment (albeit behind the scenes) is the battle for vice-presidential candidate. For example, if Golkar supports Widodo then it most likely wants something back for this support. It would not be far-fetched to think that Golkar would like to see Airlangga Hartarto, incumbent Industry Minister and Chairman of Golkar, as Widodo's running mate in the 2019 election. Similarly, as mentioned above, PD will probably throw its support behind him who wants Agus Yudhoyono as his vice presidential candidate.
As a strategy to gain votes across the country, the presidential candidate and vice-presidential candidate are often complimentary pairs in terms of matters such as background, race, and field of experience. For example, for Widodo - a Javanese - it could boost his popularity outside Java if he partners with a vice-presidential candidate who originates from the "Outer Islands" (as happened in the 2014 election). Or, Widodo - a former furniture businessman - could select a former army general such as Gatot Nurmantyo to boost his chances (army generals can rely on a significant amount of popular support in Indonesia because they are regarded strong leaders). Or, Widodo - having limited higher education himself (although he did graduate from the Forestry faculty at Gadjah Mada University, Yogyakarta) - could select someone with a PhD in economics such as Sri Mulyani Indrawati (but considering she is a technocrat without a membership in any political party, there may be too limited political support for this choice).
Similarly, Prabowo could be seeking a complimentary pair to boost his chances of becoming president in the 2019 election. Being a former army general himself (educated in the military school) he may too be interested in selecting a well educated economist as his vice-presidential candidate as this would make his policies more credible to voters. But considering he is seemingly eager to attract support from the more radical Islamic groups in Indonesia, he may decide to select someone who is respected by these hardliners.
The positions of vice-presidential candidates for the 2019 election are still a big question mark and therefore it is interesting to follow developments and reports in local media. After all, considering the presidential and vice-presidential candidates run as fixed, inseparable pairs, the choice for vice-presidential candidate is an important one that can lead to higher (or less) support.
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