JAKARTA: A grand coalition for Indonesia’s upcoming election seems to be on the cards, said analysts, as politicians from the major parties engage in horse-trading.
Despite the clear advantages of such an alliance, a win is not guaranteed, they added, noting that the presidential candidate put forth would be crucial.
Potential presidential and vice presidential candidates must register themselves with the elections commission this October if they want to contest in the polls next February.
Pollsters say that defence minister and head of Gerindra party Prabowo Subianto, former Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan and Central Java governor Ganjar Pranowo of PDI-P ( Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle) are the favourites when it comes to the presidential candidates.
While Mr Subianto and Mr Baswedan have declared their intention to run, the ruling party PDI-P has yet to declare its presidential candidate. Local media, however, is reporting that head of PDI-P Megawati Soekarnoputri would like to nominate her daughter and parliamentary speaker Puan Maharani. Polls so far show that her electability is below 10 per cent.
To nominate a presidential candidate, a party must obtain at least 20 per cent of the total seats in parliament or obtain 25 per cent of votes in the previous legislative election.
Only PDI-P meets this criterion as it has 22.26 per cent of the seats in parliament. The other parties must form a coalition if they want to nominate a presidential candidate.
The parliament’s second biggest party Golkar has formed a coalition with Partai Amanat Nasional (PAN) and Partai Persatuan Pembangunan (PPP). Named Koalisi Indonesia Bersatu (KIB), it holds 25.73 per cent of the parliament seats.
Meanwhile, the third largest party in parliament, Gerindra, has formed a coalition with the National Awakening Party (PKB). Together, the Koalisi Kebangkitan Indonesia Raya (KKIR) has 23.66 per cent of parliament seats.
The two coalitions and President Joko Widodo met earlier this month, triggering speculation that a grand coalition may be in the works. While such an alliance could potentially enjoy a clear advantage in the elections, analysts interviewed by CNA said that there are no guarantees.
SIGNS OF A GRAND COALITION IN THE WORKS
On Apr 2, Mr Widodo met the leaders of KIB and KKIR in Jakarta. Notably absent from the meeting was Mdm Soekarnoputri, the head of PDI-P, of which Mr Widodo is a member.
Mr Surya Paloh, the head of the fourth biggest parliament party Nasdem, was also not present. While Nasdem is in the current governing coalition, it has backed Mr Baswedan, the former Jakarta governor as its presidential candidate, teaming up with the Democrat Party and Prosperous Justice Party (PKS).
The Democrat Party and PKS are opposition parties, and Nasdem’s move to nominate Mr Baswedan as its presidential candidate is widely regarded as a decision which is not supported by Mr Widodo.
The meeting between KIB, KKIR and Jokowi, as the president is popularly known, came just days after football governing body FIFA stripped Indonesia of the right to stage this year's Under-20 football World Cup.
The decision came after some protests including by two PDI-P governors, namely Mr Pranowo and Bali’s governor I Wayan Koster, who did not want Israel to participate in the event. They argued that Indonesia has no diplomatic relations with Israel as it supports the Palestinians.
The failure to host the tournament was generally blamed on PDI-P, and Jokowi openly expressed his disappointment in not being able to host the U-20 World Cup. Political observers said at that time that the episode might have strained ties between the Indonesian leader and others in his party.
After the meeting, Mr Subianto of Gerindra said the parties in the KIB coalition as well as in KKIR, share the same vision. He added that they are in support of Jokowi.
“Yes, we have (the same vision). It turns out we have, so we feel we are on the same frequency, we have compatibilities,” said Mr Subianto.
Responding to a reporter’s question about whether KIB and KKIR are compatible in terms of working together, Jokowi replied: “I’m just saying they fit. It’s up to the party leaders or party alliance.”
“For the good of the country, the good of the nation, the good of the people, it would be better if matters can be discussed," he said.
Political analyst Ray Rangkuti from Jakarta-based think tank Lingkar Madani believes there may be an attempt to form a grand coalition.
"I think there are efforts to form a grand coalition. But of course, it is not easy, and the developments are changing day to day, week to week.
"But it is not given that it (the political process) will be smooth even though it looks like efforts will be made to get there. Because the crucial point is who will be the president and vice president," Mr Rangkuti noted.
He pointed out that a grand coalition means having bigger campaign machinery to gain votes, but it can only be effective if there is the right presidential candidate.
“Having a big coalition but not having the right figure does not guarantee a win,” Mr Rangkuti stated.
PDI-P AND JOKOWI KEY TO THE EQUATION
Subsequently, PDI-P stated that it would be willing to join a grand coalition. Mdm Maharani, the parliamentary speaker and head of PDI-P’s political and security unit said the party would come on board if there is an agreement to make a better Indonesia.
“A coalition can be formed if the vision and mission or the aspirations of everyone are the same and they can be carried out.
“So yes, I am in favour of it if is indeed carried out with the same ideals, vision and mission for Indonesia," she said on Apr 4.
Earlier this week, Mr Subiantio said he would soon meet with Mdm Maharani. He too said that he is open to the idea of PDI-P joining the so-called grand coalition.
On Monday (Apr 10), Mr Airlangga Hartarto, the head of Golkar met the head of Perindo party Hary Tanoesoedibjo who is a businessman and media mogul. Perindo is currently not a lawmaker but has met the criteria to contest in the upcoming election.
Speaking to Journalists after the meeting, Mr Hartarto said the grand coalition is open to every party. But if PDI-P wants to join, talks must first be held, he said.
Mr Hartarto also met Mr Subianto of Gerindra on Tuesday. The coordinating minister later said: “The elements of this grand coalition are the KIB and the KKIR, so it is only natural that Prabowo, as the leader of the KKIR and I, from Golkar, representing the KIB, continue to communicate to build the solidity of the grand coalition.”
However, it is PDI-P that would be a crucial factor in the formation of the grand coalition, said political lecturer Aditya Perdana who is with the University of Indonesia.
“It all depends on who PDI-P wants to nominate. Of course, if the candidate is Ganjar (Pranowo), maybe this would attract other parties. But if it’s not Ganjar, like Puan (Maharani), maybe this will be a bit difficult,” he opined.
He added that Jokowi would also be a key player even though he is stepping down. “Jokowi and Megawati have different views regarding the presidential candidate. So this coalition can only happen and be effective if PDI-P and Jokowi can have the same views on who they nominate as a presidential candidate.”
“Should PDI-P not join the coalition, there could be three big coalitions: PDI-P, the big coalition people are talking of, and the Nasdem coalition,” he noted.
Mr Adi Prayitno, a politics lecturer with Universitas Islam Negeri Syarif Hidayatullah, thinks it will be hard for the grand coalition to determine who would be the presidential and vice presidential candidates.
“Uniting so many party interests in a grand coalition is not an easy matter. Besides, so many elites and party leaders have pushed a lot on their candidacy.
“For example, Gerindra can't just be number two. Prabowo is its fixed presidential candidate. Likewise, in Airlangga’s case,” he argued.
Ultimately, they must opt for the stronger figure, he concluded. “A big coalition looks big, strong and solid. But it is useless if the presidential candidate is not a strong figure.”