JAKARTA (THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Less than two weeks before the registration for simultaneous regional elections in Indonesia opens, political parties are scrambling to select candidates and to strengthen their power bases by forming coalitions with other parties.
The five biggest and most highlighted provinces that will hold gubernatorial elections next year - West Java, Central Java, East Java, North Sumatra and Papua - however have yet to see firm candidate selections, or solid political alliances, which, in certain cases, are required to allow the parties to field candidates.
In West Java, widely regarded as a religiously conservative region and the nation's most populous province, the upcoming election has already seen heated rivalries, with some party alliances that have begun to form, appearing likely to break apart.
In particular, the coalition of two Islam-based parties - the United Development Party (PPP) and National Mandate Party (PKB) - whose alliance with the NasDem Party had initially included the Golkar party, has now become wobbly.
Golkar - the province's second largest party - recently left the alliance, which has agreed to endorse frontrunner Ridwan Kamil, the popular mayor of Bandung.
Golkar has instead thrown its support behind one of its members, Purwakarta Regent Dedi Mulyadi, after it became exasperated with Ridwan's inability to decide on his running mate, an issue that continues to be a subject of dispute among the coalition members.
The PPP and PKB have both insisted on their members running as Ridwan's running mate.
The Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and National Mandate Party (PAN) - two parties that may represent the votes of conservative Muslims - and the Democratic Party had previously declared they would team up in support of incumbent deputy governor and Democrat politician Deddy Mizwar's bid.
On Wednesday (Dec 27), the PKS and PAN, however, announced that they had formed a coalition in West Java with their past ally in the 2014 presidential election, the Gerindra Party.
"Today we [PKS, PAN and Gerindra] have agreed to endorse Sudrajat-Syaikhu," PKS chairman Sohibul Iman said, referring to retired military man Sudrajat and the deputy mayor of Bekasi, Ahmad Syaikhu, as running mate.
The fate of Deddy, along with his party, which was once also a member of the 2014 alliance, is now hanging in the balance.
"We are still having intense talks with the Democratic Party to invite them to join us," said Sodik Mudjahid from Gerindra.
The General Election Commission (KPU) is set to open the registration for the candidates on Jan 8 to run in the regional elections, better known as Pilkada, in 17 provinces and 154 regencies.
In Central Java, the PKS has appeared to follow in the steps of Gerindra and PAN in endorsing former energy minister Sudirman Said, who once signalled he would run in the election on a Democratic, PPP and Golkar ticket.
But Democrat lawmaker Agus Hermanto said his party was still "scrutinising the electability and popularity (of various hopefuls) before deciding."
Many believe that the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) will support the reelection of Governor Ganjar Pranowo in the province, known as a PDI-P stronghold. However, the country's largest political party has yet to make a decision.
Among the five big provinces, the PDI-P has only formalised its support in East Java, naming Deputy Governor Saifullah "Gus Ipul" Yusuf as a candidate in collaboration with the PKB.
Gus Ipul is likely to challenge Social Affairs Minister Khofifah Indar Parawansa who is backed by Golkar, the Dems, the PPP, Nasdem and the Hanura Party.
Gerindra, PAN and the PKS are considering endorsing Gerindra politician Moreno Soeprapto, a former racing driver, but are yet to officially make an announcement.
In North Sumatra and Papua, most political parties have yet to decide either on coalitions or candidates.