Indonesian Golkar forms coalition to endorse leader as presidential candidate
JAKARTA – Indonesia’s oldest party, Golkar, has formed a coalition with two smaller parties, in a move analysts see as endorsing its party leader as the presidential candidate and opening up the possibility of having more than two candidates running for president in the 2024 elections, unlike the last two polls.
The alliance with the National Mandate Party (PAN) and the United Development Party (PPP) – named “United Indonesia Coalition” – aims to “end the use of political identities polarizing Indonesian voters” as seen in the 2014 and 2019 elections, which senior Golkar Ace leader Hasan Syadzily described as “causing deep trauma” to society after the elections.
“We want the general election to become a contest of ideas, reflections, assessments and achievements, an opportunity to prove who is the best,” he said last Friday (May 13).
The ratings of Golkar leader Airlangga Hartarto, 59, who is the Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs, have been lower in major opinion polls compared to other presidential candidates, such as the Minister of Defense Prabowo Subianto, Governor of Central Java Ganjar Pranowo and Governor of Jakarta Anies Baswedan.
During an early election campaign late last year, campaign billboards featuring Mr Airlangga, with the slogan ‘work for Indonesia’, popped up on roadsides in a certain number of regions including West Java, Central Java, East Java and South Sulawesi, triggering public criticism. as Indonesia was still struggling to stem the Covid-19 pandemic.
Professor Firman Noor, a senior research fellow at the Center for Policy Research at the National Research and Innovation Agency, told the Straits Times: ‘For now this (coalition) is intended as a (policy) vehicle for Mr Airlangga.
“The intention of Golkar, particularly Mr. Airlangga…is to seek out parties which do not have strong candidates, but with whom they can cooperate and share cabinet positions.”
He noted that this is mutually beneficial for both parties: the two smaller parties need more votes to join the Cabinet, while Golkar needs parties with a “flexible negotiating position”.
“If Golkar chooses Gerindra, it will be difficult because Gerindra has great bargaining power, so he is looking for mediocre parties to allow for smooth negotiations,” Professor Firman said.
Gerindra, led by Mr. Prabowo, a retired army general, came second in the 2019 elections after winning 12.6% of the vote in parliament, overtaking Golkar who fell to third place with 12.3 % voices.
Mr Prabowo had stood as a presidential candidate in 2014 and 2019 but lost to the only other candidate, Mr Joko Widodo, who will complete his second five-year term in 2024 and cannot seek re-election.
Dr Sirojudin Abbas, executive director of pollster Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting, told ST the latest move by the three parties was a “concrete first step” towards building a “common platform” to mobilize the masses before the elections.
“If (the coalition) can mature, the three parties can become an axis alliance in the presidential elections. When combined, they have reached the minimum presidential threshold,” he said.