JAKARTA, Aug 13 (The Straits Times/ANN): Indonesia's second-largest party Gerindra and largest Islamic party National Awakening Party (PKB) declared a political alliance on Saturday (Aug 13), the second such coalition formed for the 2024 election.
The two parties, whose alliance was named the "Great Indonesia-Awakening Coalition", gave the mandate to their respective chairmen to pick candidates for the country's top posts.
"The presidential and the vice-presidential candidates for the collaboration between the PKB and Gerindra will be jointly appointed by Gerindra chairman Prabowo Subianto and PKB chairman Muhaimin Iskandar," said Sufmi Dasco Ahmad, executive director of Gerindra's central executive board.
Both parties also asserted that the coalition was open to other parties.
Gerindra, which came in second in the 2019 election in terms of votes in Parliament, has 78 seats, while PKB holds 58 seats.
Combined, the two parties would meet the parliamentary threshold to nominate a candidate for the next presidential election on Feb 14, 2024.
Indonesian law requires any party, or an alliance of parties, fielding candidates in the presidential race to hold at least 20 per cent of seats in Parliament - or 115 out of the total 575 seats.
Alternatively, they must have received a combined total of 25 per cent of votes in the earlier election.
The development came a day after Gerindra nominated Prabowo, who is also Defence Minister, as its presidential candidate for 2024 during the first of its two-day national leadership meeting in Sentul, West Java.
The minister said he would make a third bid for the top job after garnering widespread support from his party members.
The 70-year-old former special forces general has ranked among the top three potential presidential candidates in opinion polls, together with Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo, 53, and Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan, also 53.
But some observers have suggested that Prabowo should not run again, after losing two presidential races.
He ran in 2014 with running mate Hatta Rajasa from the National Mandate Party (PAN) and lost to Joko Widodo.
He contested again in 2019, alongside vice-presidential candidate Sandiaga Uno - who quit Gerindra to avoid an all-Gerindra presidential ticket and to appease coalition partners - but lost for the second time to Widodo.
Professor Firman Noor, a senior researcher at the Political Research Centre of the National Research and Innovation Agency, described the Gerindra-PKB coalition as "weak" if it nominates Prabowo and Muhaimin as the presidential and vice-presidential candidates.
Prof Firman noted that based on polls, Muhaimin's electability was lower than Mr Prabowo's previous running mate, Mr Sandiaga.
It would not be easy for the PKB chairman to secure votes from members of the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), Indonesia's biggest Islamic organisation whose clerics founded the party, as he has had tensions with some of NU's high-profile figures, said the professor.
Meanwhile, polls showed that Prabowo's support ratings had been stagnant, backed mostly by Gerindra loyalists, he added.
Prof Firman pointed out that the coalition would have to take a few necessary measures to widen its support.
"It can target participation from political parties that have not yet joined a coalition," he told The Straits Times.
"If it doesn't join hands with other parties, it must quickly approach influential mass organisations."
In mid-May, Indonesia's oldest party Golkar set up the United Indonesia Coalition with two smaller parties - PAN and the United Development Party.
As many as 22 parties have registered for the upcoming election so far and the registration will close on Sunday. - The Straits Times/ANN