JAKARTA (The Jakarta Post/Asia New Network): Political party elites have revived the idea of forming a big-tent coalition in order to have a two-horse race in the upcoming presidential election, after the poll organiser officially moved the registration deadline from late November to late October.
The proposal to have only two pairs of candidates contesting the Feb 14 election, which would be intended to save the country from having to hold a costly runoff election, had appeared dead after the pro-government parties, particularly the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) and the Gerindra Party, failed to agree on which party would get the presidential slot on the ticket, the PDI-P’s Ganjar Pranowo or Gerindra’s Prabowo Subianto.
The idea has now been revived after the General Elections Commission (KPU) officially moved the deadline for presidential election registration from Nov 25 to Oct 25, forcing Prabowo’s Indonesia Onward Coalition (KIM) and Ganjar’s PDI-P-led electoral alliance to scramble to find running mates for their presumptive presidential nominees.
With the clock ticking faster, party elites are now rehashing the proposal to pair the two election frontrunners, leaving the Anies Baswedan-Muhaimin Iskandar candidate pair from the Coalition of Change for Unity (KPP), as the only other election contender.
Puan Maharani of the PDI-P central executive board said on Thursday (Sept 21) that it was “a possibility” for Ganjar to be paired with Prabowo. Such a scenario, she said, would be especially possible if the political situation showed that a Ganjar-Prabowo pairing would deliver the best outcome for the country.
"The current political dynamics allow us to meet [continuously] to make deals on what we believe is best for the nation," she told reporters after a House of Representatives plenary meeting, as quoted by Antara.
“We’ll see the dynamics within a month.”
Ganjar himself did not rule out such a possibility.
"In politics, before it is officially decided by the KPU, all possibilities can happen,” he said, briefly.
Another PDI-P executive, Djarot Saiful Hidayat, expressed a similar sentiment, acknowledging the fact that things were still fluid until parties officially register their candidate pairs with the KPU.
"Are we sure that these three [presidential candidates] can all enter the race? The registration is set for Oct 19-25, right?” he asked.
That said, Djarot stressed that the PDI-P and its coalition partners remained solid in backing Ganjar’s presidential bid, which is likely to be a deal-breaker for the pro-Prabowo alliance.
The Prabowo camp is now the largest electoral alliance with the backing of four major parties: Gerindra, the Golkar Party, the National Mandate Party (PAN) and the Democratic Party, which only recently joined the bloc.
Moreover, the former Army general is believed to have gained the support of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, who retains the backing of various “volunteer” groups as well the elites within Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the nation’s largest and most politically influential Islamic organisation.
This has given Prabowo stronger bargaining power against Ganjar, who is only backed by the PDI-P, the United Development Party (PPP) and two minnow parties with no seats at the House, Perindo and the Hanura Party.
Gerindra executive Sufmi Dasco Ahmad has made it clear that the KIM has no plan to drop Prabowo’s presidential candidacy, playing down the suggestion that he be paired with Ganjar
The KPP, which still portrays itself as the “opposition” camp despite being supported by two pro-government parties, is more confident that the pro-Prabowo and pro-Ganjar camps will eventually join forces to take on the pro-Anies coalition.
One of its leaders said it was ready to face the possibility of having a two-horse race in February next year.
"This is just my personal view, because the political dynamics currently lead to only two axes: the pro-change axis and the not-for-change axis,” PKB deputy chairman Jazilul Fawaid said.
“There is only one month left. The candidates and the parties remain the same. Nothing has changed. Where is the difficulty? There should be no difficulty in deciding, at least in my view. What could make things rather difficult is if [there is an effort to consolidate party elites to have] a two-way race," Jazilul said.
Speculation about a potential alliance between Ganjar and Prabowo first began to swirl on March 9, when Jokowi invited the two leaders to join him on a visit to rice fields in Central Java.
President Jokowi reportedly proposed Ganjar and Prabowo as a candidate pair to PDI-P chairman Megawati Soekarnoputri during their meeting at the Presidential Palace in the same month.
Analysts have said that both Jokowi and Megawati have taken the roles of competing kingmakers for the 2024 elections, with the former apparently being a few steps ahead of his own putative boss within the PDI-P.