Jokowi to name former V-P Kalla as running mate?

Popular Indonesian presidential candidate likely to name No. 2 today

Mr Joko Widodo, the leading candidate in the Indonesian presidential race, is likely to name his running mate as early as today, now that a clearer picture is emerging after a flurry of deal- making through the week.

The word is that former vice- president Jusuf Kalla is the likely nominee, even as the horse-trading continues behind the scenes. The discussions revolve around Mr Joko, of the Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P), and the two other presidential candidates, Mr Aburizal Bakrie of Golkar, and Mr Prabowo Subianto of the Greater Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra).

By mid-May, the leading parties have to come up with the names of their candidate and running mate for the July 9 presidential election.

To do that, they have to have won at least 112 seats - 20 per cent of the 560-member Parliament - which no party is assured of yet. The announcement of final seat counts will be early next month.

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One week after the April 9 general election, Mr Joko, 52, the popular Governor of Jakarta, and commonly known as Jokowi, is set to be the first to name his running mate, maybe today.

The PDI-P will form a coalition with the National Democratic Party of media mogul Surya Paloh to field the duo.

Top of the shortlist is Mr Jusuf Kalla, 71, who was President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's vice- president and chairman of Golkar from 2004 to 2009. He is likely to play the role of Mr Joko's political mentor.

The South Sulawesi-born businessman heads the Indonesian Red Cross and the Council of Mosques.

Mr Kalla is also close to PDI-P chairman Megawati Sukarnoputri, and helped persuade the party to field Mr Joko, then mayor of Solo City in Central Java, for the Jakarta gubernatorial election in 2012.

But some fear Mr Kalla would be too dominant in running the government.

When contacted by The Straits Times, Mr Kalla's aide said his boss was not willing to comment before the announcement.

Also on the shortlist is retired four-star army general Luhut Panjaitan, 66, a former ambassador to Singapore and trade minister under president Abdurrahman Wahid. Mr Luhut, now a businessman, has met Mr Joko several times since April 9. But he is not as well-known as Mr Kalla.

Mr Luhut's religion - he is Protestant - may also be an issue, although he is close to many Muslim figures.

PDI-P member and former police chief Da'i Bachtiar said Mr Joko's running mate had to be electable, given the party's not-so-great election result last week - it got 19 per cent of the popular vote by quick counts, even though opinion polls showed Mr Joko would get double this figure in the presidential poll.

"Jokowi also has an important role in making the decision because the candidate, if the pair is elected, will have to work with him," Mr Bachtiar added.

Mr Joko's main rival for the top job, former special forces general Prabowo Subianto, 62, has been courting possible coalition partners as well, but in a more low-key manner.

The vice-presidential candidate, said Gerindra chairman Suhardi, should have professional experience and ideally be "nationalistic, good at handling bureaucracy and all other fields Prabowo does not have expertise in".

His Gerindra Party may ally itself with the Muslim-based United Development Party, but talk of Mr Prabowo pairing up instead with coordinating economic minister Hatta Rajasa of the National Mandate Party has heightened in recent days.

Asked about Mr Hatta, Gerindra chairman Suhardi said he was "one of the choices in our list".

Golkar chairman Mr Bakrie is also likely to run in the July poll, even though the party's voters may be split between backing him and the Jokowi-Kalla pair, as Mr Kalla remains a Golkar member.

On Monday, Mr Bakrie said he had the backing of the People's Conscience (Hanura) Party of former armed forces commander Wiranto for his bid.

While he has yet to name possible running mates, party sources say former constitutional court chief justice Mahfud MD and head of the Nahdlatul Ulama women's wing Khofifah Indar Parawansa are being considered.

One big question is whether the Democratic Party of President Yudhoyono will be able to link up with the remaining parties to form a fourth pairing, or who it will back.

Pollster Saiful Mujani told The Straits Times: "Things are still fluid, and Jokowi hasn't optimally included all parties he can gather for a coalition."

Additional reporting by Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja and Zubaidah Nazeer