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In preparation for the 2024 Indonesian elections




Deasy Simandjuntak, ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute

After months of speculation, President Joko Jokowi Widodo announced in April that the 2024 Indonesian elections would not be postponed. Postponement speculation had circulated after Indonesian parliaments disputed plans to extend the presidential term, which have since been stifled.

Hundreds of students protested outside the House of Representatives in Jakarta, Indonesia on April 21, 2022. (Photo: Donal Husni/NurPhoto)

With this announcement, it is almost certain almostbecause anything can still happen in Indonesian politics that the next elections will be in February 2024. These will be simultaneous parliamentary, senatorial and presidential elections but, as in 2019, the latter are likely to be the most important for voters.

Although 2024 is still two years away, speculation has started over who could replace Jokowi. Polls indicate the president is still popular, seen as a success in infrastructure development and economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Normally, the incumbents would try to field a candidate who would continue their legacy, but Jokowi does not have his own party and therefore will not be able to choose a successor. The political battleground itself will likely change as parties form new coalitions following the candidates they endorse.

Polls so far indicate that Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo, Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto and Jakarta Governor Anie Baswedan are the most likely to be endorsed as presidential candidates. Meanwhile, Minister of State Enterprises (SOE) Erick Thohir, Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy Sandiaga Uno, Governor of West Java Ridwan Kamil, Chairman of the Democratic Party Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono and President of Parliament Puan Maharani, daughter of the Indonesian Democratic Party for Struggle (PDI-P) President Megawati Sukarnoputri is a popular candidate for Vice President.

A recent election simulation by pollster Charta Politika listed Ganjar Pranowo as the most popular choice regardless of his running mate. The second most popular figure was Prabowo Subianto.

As the only party in the 2019 elections to have won the 20% of legislative votes required to be allowed to unilaterally nominate a presidential candidate in 2024, the PDI-P is the only one not to be obliged to form a nominating coalition with other parties. Megawati will likely come up with a character with a similar political stance to Jokowi, perhaps pairing the candidate with her daughter, Puan Maharani, as the running mate. Some believe the PDI-P will support Ganjar Pranowo because, like Jokowi, he is Javanese, religiously tolerant and focused on effective governance. But Ganjar is a longtime PDI-P executive and an all-PDI-P ticket from GanjarPuan could limit ticket appeal to the party base.

To increase the chances of its candidates, the PDI-P can always form a coalition and either not endorse Ganjar or drop Puan to accommodate the preferences of other parties. Recent news points to struggles between Ganjar and Central Javas PDI-P leaders, suggesting they may not support his candidacy. But others point to Megawatis’ fundamental interest in maintaining the PDI-P as Indonesia’s kingmaker, and for that she is likely to support Ganjar as the most popular candidate.

A ticket including Ganjar and SOE Minister Erick Thohir is a viable option. A very successful young entrepreneur, Erick is popular among millennial voters. As an honorary member of the Multipurpose Ansor Front, the militia wing of the Ansor Youth Organization which is affiliated with Nahdlatul Ulama, the largest moderate Muslim organization from Indonesia, Erick, could attract moderate Muslim votes.

Others predict a Prabowo SubiantoPuan Maharani ticket. After running for president in 2014 and 2019, and as running mate for Megawatis in 2009, Prabowo remains popular. Although the Prabowos party opposed Megawatis PDI-P in 2014 and 2019, the fact that he once ran with Megawati and is now Minister of Defense in the PDI-P-backed government shows that the two personalities are not fundamentally opposed.

The opposition camp may field Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan mainly for his popularity among conservative Islamist voters. But it is unclear whether this electoral bloc is as strong as it was in 2019 after recent government measures, such as the banning of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI). He will probably still need some votes from moderate Muslims, but that is difficult due to his conservative image. Given that Anies’ candidacy for the 2017 Jakarta elections was endorsed by Prabowo, the possibility of Prabowo and Anies running one-on-one in 2024 illustrates the flexibility of Indonesian politics. The relative absence of party ideology made individual candidates and the public perception of their religiosity the focus of mobilization.

A possible dark horse is General Andika Perkasa, commander of the armed forces. Appointed in November 2021, Andika, the son-in-law of influential former intelligence chief Hendropriyono, has some unusual policies. Recently, it allowed descendants of members of the long-disbanded Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI) to apply for the armed forces. They had been banned since 1966, and Andikas’ decision sparked controversy. But observers point to the potential support of 25 million ICP descendants. Although they do not form an electoral bloc, the Andikas’ decision to let this group join the army will resonate with supporters of national reconciliation.

Political developments over the next two years will certainly bring some surprises. It remains to be seen whether identity politics, success in managing COVID-19 or other emerging political issues will dictate preferences in 2024.

Deasy Simandjuntak is a Research Associate in the Indonesian Studies Program at ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, Singapore, Adjunct Associate Professor at National Chengchi University, Taipei and International Visiting Scholar at Taiwan Foundation for Democracy, Taipei.




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