Indonesia election: Parties in Jokowi's coalition perform well in legislative race

Supporters of incumbent President Joko Widodo shouting slogans yesterday as they celebrated at a local market in Solo, Central Java, after the early-count results showed he was poised to return for a second term in office. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
Supporters of incumbent President Joko Widodo shouting slogans yesterday as they celebrated at a local market in Solo, Central Java, after the early-count results showed he was poised to return for a second term in office. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Majority could translate to a greater bargaining position for Jokowi or create more conflict with parties: Experts

Parties backing President Joko Widodo benefited from riding on his coattails in Indonesia's legislative race, with the incumbent poised to return to office for a second term.

Though the opposition Gerindra Party and the Islamic-leaning Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) took seats in the House from parties in the ruling coalition, the advantage remains with the ruling coalition, if unofficial quick counts are accurate.

But experts are divided on whether a majority would translate to a greater bargaining position for Mr Joko, or create more conflict with parties vying to field their own presidential candidate in 2024.

An early count by Litbang Kompas, the research arm of Indonesia's biggest newspaper Kompas, indicated 54 per cent of votes for Mr Joko's ruling coalition and 36.11 per cent votes for the opposing coalition led by Mr Prabowo Subianto.

A number of pollsters have Mr Joko's Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) garnering over 19 per cent of the votes, which was below its target of 25 per cent.

Kompas has Mr Joko's party securing 19.97 per cent, based on 92.8 per cent of the ballot data sampled.

Indo Barometer and the Indonesian Survey Circle had 19.49 per cent and 19.69 per cent respectively for the PDI-P, based on 91.58 per cent and 99.55 per cent of the data in all polling stations surveyed.

 
 

Quick counts also hinted that Gerindra, led by presidential candidate Prabowo, came in second with about 13 per cent, making it the runner-up in Parliament for the first time since its establishment in 2008. It switched places from the 2014 election with Golkar, which now ranks third.

Kompas has 12.84 per cent of the votes going to Gerindra and 11.89 per cent to Golkar, which backed the president's re-election.

Other parties in the coalition with Mr Joko - the National Awakening Party (PKB) and NasDem Party - also performed well, which could pave their way to greater power in the next administration.

According to Kompas, PKB managed fourth place with 9.27 per cent of the votes, while NasDem rose to sixth with 8.27 per cent, slightly higher than the 8.03 per cent for the Democrat Party, founded by former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and which supported Mr Prabowo in the presidential race.

Other allies of Gerindra, the PKS and National Mandate Party (PAN), gained 8.62 per cent and 6.62 per cent, respectively.

Mr Noory Okhthariza, a political expert at the Jakarta-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies, said early counts for the legislative election result hint at the foundation of a strong coalition in Parliament. A solid PDI-P-led coalition throwing their weight behind Mr Joko, coupled with his victory, would allow him to gain more meaningful outcomes in his second and final term in office, he added.

However, Dr Aditya Perdana, executive director of the University of Indonesia's Centre for Political Studies, said a strong coalition might not translate directly to more bargaining power for Mr Joko's administration.

"Looking at various policies in different administrations, the House of Representatives tends to be inconsistent and even very pragmatic, depending on the issues and programmes it wants to produce. So, we cannot draw a pattern," he told The Straits Times.

Dr Aditya also said that whether Gerindra and its allies will remain solid as the opposing coalition is still a question mark as the political constellation is likely to change ahead of the 2024 elections.

"Some regional leaders may advance as presidential candidates in 2024. Whether Gerindra, PKS or PAN will be consistent in the opposition side will depend on the political dynamics in the next few years," he added.

 
 

Ms Titi Anggraini, executive director of election watchdog, the Association for Elections and Democracy, said that although the ruling coalition is likely to be loyal to Mr Joko, potential conflicts could arise in the populist policies that the parties may push.

"Parties may pick a populist approach because they are trying to build capital ahead of the 2024 elections," she said, while noting that the future conflicts could be countered by compromises on who will fill Cabinet posts.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 19, 2019, with the headline 'Parties in Jokowi's coalition perform well in legislative race'. Print Edition | Subscribe