Democrats moving closer to Indonesia's President Jokowi as election nears

Indonesian President Joko Widodo, has secured the support of five political parties and together, they control about 52 per cent of seats at the House of Representatives.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo, has secured the support of five political parties and together, they control about 52 per cent of seats at the House of Representatives. PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA (THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - In a move that would further boost President Joko Widodo's standing in the 2019 presidential election, the Democratic Party (PD) has reportedly been laying the groundwork for an alliance with the President's party, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P).

Under the direction of party chairman and former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who led the nation from 2004 to 2014, the second-largest opposition party has been intensifying its lobbying effort to forge an agreement with the PDI-P, which just officially declared its support for Joko's re-election bid.

Democratic Party and PDI-P executives have confirmed that Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, the eldest son of former president Yudhoyono, is planning to soon hold a meeting with Prananda Prabowo, the son of PDI-P chairman Megawati Sukarnoputri, though they have yet to set a date.

"We have begun communicating but have yet to schedule the meeting between (Agus and Prananda)," Democratic Party deputy chairman Nurhayati Ali Assegaf said on Tuesday (Feb 27).

President Joko, popularly known as Jokowi, has secured the support of five political parties: the PDI-P, the Golkar Party, the NasDem Party, the Hanura Party and the United Development Party. Together, they control about 52 per cent of seats at the House of Representatives.

The Democratic Party holds 8.6 per cent of House seats, making it the fourth-largest party after the PDI-P, Golkar and the Gerindra Party.

With just six months to go before the General Elections Commission closes registration for the 2019 presidential election, political parties are scrambling to find coalition partners.

As of now, only Gerindra has publicly announced its intention to challenge Jokowi in 2019 by nominating its leader, Prabowo Subianto, who lost to Jokowi in the 2014 presidential election, as its presidential candidate again.

The Democrats, the National Mandate Party, the Prosperous Justice Party and the National Awakening Party have yet to decide whether to back Jokowi or Prabowo, or come up with a third candidate.

However, in a strong signal that the Democratic Party is inclined to endorse Jokowi, a top party official suggested that building an alliance with the PDI-P would be good for the nation.

"Collaboration between two nationalist parties, such as the PDI-P and the PD, is badly needed," Democratic Party secretary-general Rachland Nashidik told The Jakarta Post.

The PDI-P, meanwhile, said it was open to forging an alliance with the Democrats.

"The PD is an influential party in the country. We won't rule out any possibilities, particularly in the current political situation," PDI-P central executive board chairman Andreas Pareira said.

He also did not rule out the possibility of pairing Jokowi with Yudhoyono's son, saying, "Agus has experienced a political contest during the Jakarta election. He is widely known. We'll see later if he is ready to face bigger political competition."

Agus has long been groomed to be the political heir of Yudhoyono and is therefore a potential presidential candidate. His participation in the Jakarta election last year was widely seen as part of Yudhoyono's and the party's effort to give his son more exposure ahead of the 2019 presidential election.

The Democratic Party has assigned Agus to lead a task force charged with preparing the party for the 2018 regional elections and 2019 presidential and legislative elections. Agus has also built good relations with the First Family, having visited Jokowi's son Gibran Rakabuming at the State Palace to ask him to attend the opening ceremony of think tank Yudhoyono Institute.

"The PD believes it is necessary to make Agus a presidential candidate. That is for the future of the party," Rachland said.

Jokowi has yet to decide who he will pick as his running mate, though speculation is rife that he might run with Vice-President Jusuf Kalla again to avoid upsetting the parties that support him. Should Kalla be the VP candidate, the real battle for national leadership would likely take place in 2024.

While the Democratic Party might announce Agus as its presidential candidate during its upcoming national meeting on March 11, the former Army major might only be able to contend in 2024.