Widodo Signals Wider Indonesia Coalition as Tally Continues

Indonesian presidential candidate Joko Widodo indicated he is open to other parties joining his coalition as signs of discord appear in opponent Prabowo Subianto’s camp with a week until official results are released.

Widodo, known as Jokowi, has a lead of 2 to 6 percentage points based on unofficial tallies after the July 9 vote. Jokowi has a coalition of four political parties while Suharto-era general Prabowo, 62, who says vote counts conducted by companies he uses for guidance show him in the lead, is backed by six parties.

“Whoever wants to join together to build the nation and state of Indonesia, why not?,” Bisnis newspaper’s website quoted Jakarta Governor Jokowi, 53, as saying in Semarang in central Java on July 13. Official results from the election commission are due by July 22.

The comment suggests a change of tack as Jokowi’s Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, known as PDI-P, aimed before the election for a maximum of four parties in its coalition. While a diverse group could make agreeing on policy changes more difficult, a larger coalition could make it easier for Jokowi to pass laws in parliament should he win. The rupiah has gained 1.1 percent this month as investors bet on a Jokowi victory leading to less red tape and corruption in Southeast Asia’s largest economy.


Golkar, the country’s second-largest party and a key member of Prabowo’s coalition, may change sides to Jokowi, Zainal Bintang, a deputy chairman of its advisory board, said in an interview on July 10. If Golkar were to switch, it would give Jokowi’s coalition 53 percent of parliamentary seats.

Prabowo’s coalition will challenge the official election results to the constitutional court, the country’s highest, if its legal team has gathered the evidence to do so, he told reporters yesterday.

“It’s not in our scenario,” Prabowo said. “We’re very confident that we’re going to win.”

Prabowo yesterday sought to project unity as his party, Gerindra, signed a “permanent coalition” pact with parties including Golkar. He said the pact showed he would be able to run a stable government.

The agreement will not prevent the United Development Party, or PPP, switching to Jokowi’s camp, Tempo reported on its website yesterday, citing Dimyati Natakusumah, a chairman at the central executive board of the Islamic party.

Open Letter

Prabowo and running mate Hatta Rajasa, who heads another party in his coalition, the National Mandate Party or PAN, should know they have lost and be resigned to the result, the Jakarta Post newspaper quoted PAN founding member Abdillah Toha as saying in an open letter to the pair.

Jokowi may not accept Golkar if it comes to the negotiating table with current chairman Aburizal Bakrie seeking cabinet seats in return for its support, said Paul Rowland, a Jakarta-based political analyst. Golkar is likely to switch anyway, since it sees itself as a party of government, he said.

“If say Golkar and PAN were to defect from Prabowo now, they’d receive some form of compensation, but not full coalition participation as the parties that nominated Jokowi,” said Marcus Mietzner, associate professor at the Australian National University in Canberra and author of “Money, Power and Ideology: Political Parties in Post-Authoritarian Indonesia.”

Party Convention

Golkar, the political vehicle of dictator Suharto who was toppled in 1998, has been in government for the past decade and has played some role in running the country throughout the post-Suharto era. Its leadership can only be decided at a party congress, next scheduled for 2015, and bringing it forward would depend on a vote by the central board and provincial leaders, Mietzner said.

“With a victory of Jokowi-JK already certain, Golkar as an institution should know itself, especially those who are backing Prabowo,” Bintang, a deputy chairman of Golkar’s advisory board, said July 10 by phone, referring to Jokowi and his running mate, ex-Golkar chairman Jusuf Kalla. “We can’t be in opposition.”

There’s talk among Golkar members to bring forward the date of the party convention to October, to change Bakrie’s leadership, Bintang said. A national congress will happen soon, Golkar’s Kalla was cited as saying today by the Jakarta Post.

‘No Votes’

Dissent is coming from people who don’t have influence at Golkar’s leadership meeting, Bakrie told reporters yesterday.

“They can voice their opinion but no votes,” he said.

Outgoing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono will probably seek to ensure the electoral transition goes smoothly and that democracy prevails, in order to ensure his legacy, said Kevin O’Rourke, a political analyst who wrote the book “Reformasi: The Struggle for Power in Post-Soeharto Indonesia.”

The parties currently aligned with Prabowo may wait to see the official election results before making a decision.

“We want to make sure based on the KPU,” the Detik news website quoted Akbar Tandjung, Golkar’s advisory council chairman, as saying on July 12, referring to the General Elections Commission. “After that, then we will know whether it’s Prabowo or Jokowi. Then we’ll discuss the next step.”

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