Indonesia's NasDem party eyes coalition after endorsing potential presidential candidates

(From left) Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan, Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo and Indonesian military commander, General Andika Perkasa, are on the shortlist. PHOTOS: ANIES BASWEDAN/FACEBOOK, GANJAR PRANOWO/FACEBOOK, REUTERS

JAKARTA - Indonesia's fourth-largest party NasDem has endorsed three potential presidential candidates, and is in talks with other political parties to form a coalition that can nominate a candidate for the 2024 election.

The party's shortlist comprises Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan and Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo - both front runners in electoral surveys - along with Indonesian military commander, General Andika Perkasa. All three are non-NasDem members.

The party has also stepped up talks with the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and the Democratic Party in what observers say may lead to the establishment of another coalition of parties in Indonesia.

Combined, the three parties would meet the parliamentary threshold to nominate a candidate in the next presidential election.

Indonesian law requires any party, or a coalition of parties, to hold at least 20 per cent of Parliament seats - 115 out of 575 seats - or 25 per cent of votes of the earlier election in order to field candidates in the presidential race.

NasDem currently has 59 seats, while PKS and the Democratic Party hold 50 seats and 54 seats respectively. Together, they would meet the threshold to put forward a presidential candidate.

Only the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), which secured 128 seats, or 22 per cent, of the parliamentary seats in the 2019 election, can nominate a pair of presidential and vice-presidential candidates in the next election without having to coalesce with other parties.

In mid-May, Indonesia's oldest party Golkar, the National Mandate Party and United Development Party formed the United Indonesia Coalition. 

Recently, the National Awakening Party claimed to have form an alliance with the country’s second-largest party Gerindra - led by Mr Prabowo Subianto, who lost against President Joko Widodo in the previous two elections - and said both parties would soon announce a coalition to be named the Great Indonesia Awakening Coalition.

NasDem said its party leaders met their counterparts from PKS on Wednesday (June 22), and both sides agreed "to collaborate in the preparation of the 2024 election in the jointly set time".

NasDem patron Surya Paloh, a media tycoon who owns major TV station MetroTV, said the two parties share "a lot of similarities in views and thoughts", which serve as the foundation of the cooperation.

PKS chairman Ahmad Syaikhu said they hope to achieve "more meeting points to pursue big agendas in the future".

On Thursday, the three nominees were among the issues discussed in a meeting between NasDem and Democratic Party executives, which included its chairman Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, the eldest son of Indonesia's sixth president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

NasDem central executive board chief Willy Aditya said the party currently focuses on exploring opportunities with other parties to form a coalition.

"We are open to all options. We are following the process thoroughly," he told The Straits Times. "Only after fulfilling the requirement to nominate will we pick one nominee (out of the three)."

He also noted that the party chief will have the final say on the presidential nominee, and that the party is "in no rush" to make a decision.

Mr Arya Fernandes, a political expert from Jakarta-based think-tank Centre for Strategic and International Studies, said the potential for the three parties to set up a new coalition is high, and they likely have agreed on some crucial points, such as power sharing and programmes.

“What will they offer? As the two parties - the PKS and Democratic Party - are not part of the ruling government, the campaign based on programmes will strengthen. For instance, they will criticise public policies or evaluate the performance of the government, and reveal what they will do through the coalition,” Mr Arya told ST.

NasDem’s endorsement of the three potential presidential nominees came after tensions emerged within the PDI-P when President and party cadre Widodo hinted during a recent rally at his support for a potential presidential candidate who also attended the event.

This led to speculations that he was referring to Mr Ganjar, a PDI-P cadre, whose electability has been high in major polls, beating Ms Puan Maharani, the daughter of the party’s patron Megawati Soekarnoputri.

Madam Megawati on Tuesday warned party members at the PDI-P national work meeting not to make any political manoeuvres ahead of the 2024 election, adding that she will expel anyone for doing so. The daughter of Indonesia’s first president and founding father also asserted that the nomination of the presidential candidate is her prerogative as the party’s chief.

Mr Arya said it has become a trend for political parties to be open to outsiders, especially professionals, to be nominated as presidential candidates.

“This change happens because, first of all, the parties do not have strong candidates with high potential to win internally so they seek outsiders,” he said, adding that parties should ideally prepare their own cadres as future leaders.

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