Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Jokowi’s nomination chances grow stronger

Supporters of Jakarta Governor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, who are hoping he will run for president, may soon have their prayers answered after several Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) politicians gave a clear signal on Monday that the party’s chairwoman, Megawati Soekarnoputri, had agreed to Jokowi’s nomination.
But analysts have warned that the signal might merely be the PDI-P’s strategy to win votes ahead of the April 9 legislative election, saying that Megawati could change her mind at the last minute. Megawati, who is herself a former president, has been mandated the sole decision maker for the PDI-P’s presidential nomination.

Previously, Megawati said the PDI-P, currently the largest opposition in the House of Representatives, would announce its presidential candidate after the April election. But party executive and senior PDI-P lawmaker Hendrawan Supratikno said that Megawati had eventually succumbed to the mounting pressure from party members nationwide to name Jokowi the party’s presidential candidate.

“The majority of PDI-P supporters in almost all constituencies want Jokowi to be named the presidential candidate before the legislative election [on April 9],” Hendrawan said.

“Their argument was to prevent voters from ‘buying a cat in a sack’. Megawati has taken this aspiration on board,” he added.

Several pollsters conducted surveys that showed the PDI-P’s electoral power would be boosted by 5 to 10 percent if Jokowi’s nomination was announced before the legislative election. This means that many people who are not PDI-P supporters may well vote for the party in April if it announces Jokowi’s nomination beforehand.

“Jokowi’s nomination could boost the PDI-P’s electability rating by more than 30 percent,” Charta Politika political analyst Arya Fernandes said.

If Jokowi was eventually nominated, he continued, the Gerindra Party’s chairman, Prabowo Subianto, would be the only contender who could pose a threat to the Jakarta governor in the presidential race.

The PDI-P has for some time been riddled by internal rifts over Jokowi’s nomination. While party executives have played it down, calling it “normal political dynamics”, some other party members told The Jakarta Post that there was still some resistance.

“The electability rating of Prabowo’s Gerindra is quite strong. He has been touted to pick the National Mandate Party’s [PAN] Hatta Rajasa as his vice presidential candidate. That is a fairly strong option but Prabowo, in my opinion, must also consider choosing the PDI-P’s other popular candidate to distract PDI-P supporters,” Arya said, referring to popular Surabaya Mayor Tri Rismaharini, who last month won the World Mayor of the Month award held by a UK-based organization.

As for the Golkar Party, which according to many surveys may be the runner-up in the legislative election, it should keep an eye on its former chairman, Jusuf Kalla, Arya said.

“Kalla is popular, particularly in eastern Indonesia. Jokowi could end up being paired with the former vice president. This would not only be a good strategy to gather more voters but it would also split the electoral power of Golkar, which is the PDI-P’s strongest competitor,” he said.

Meanwhile, United Development Party (PPP) executive Hasrul Azwar said his party had been eyeing the PDI-P to form a coalition for the presidential election.

But he voiced his objection to Jokowi running. “He needs to accomplish what he has been mandated to do as Jakarta governor,” Hasrul said.

“Jokowi is a media darling. No wonder surveys have shown his high electability rating. But they do not necessarily reflect the real situation in the elections to come,” he said, adding that the PPP was aiming tio secure 12 percent of legislative votes.

Margareth S. Aritonang contributed to the story

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