‘Jokowi’s crown prince’: The son of a policeman leading the field to be Indonesia’s next president

‘Jokowi’s crown prince’: The son of a policeman leading the field to be Indonesia’s next president

Singapore/Jakarta: When Joko Widodo quipped in November that a “white haired” leader would best serve Indonesia when his time was up, it was seen as a not so subtle pointer towards his preferred successor.

The Indonesian president, known as Jokowi, didn’t say who exactly he was referring to but it hardly took a genius to decipher it.

Ganjar Pranowo is leading opinion polls ahead of next year’s presidential election in Indonesia.Credit:Shuttershock

Ganjar Pranowo, the snowy-haired, populist governor of Indonesia’s Central Java province, had already emerged as one of three presumptive candidates for the next presidential election and Widodo’s comment, delivered to thousands of devotees at a rally in Jakarta, was interpreted as close enough to an endorsement of him.

Riding in the slipstream of the vastly popular president, the 54-year-old has since emphasised his status as an early favourite among voters in the world’s third largest democracy.

Pranowo has widened his lead as the most favoured next president in a new poll conducted by the Indonesia Survey Institute, garnering 36.3 per cent of support among respondents, well ahead of the other two most likely contenders: former Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan (24.2 per cent) and Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto (23.2 per cent), a two-time loser to Widodo.

There is, of course, a long way to go. It is more than a year until voters cast ballots on February 14, 2024 and there are yet to be any candidates officially nominated.

Indonesia President Joko Widodo will complete his second, five-year term in office in October 2024.Credit:AP

However, as Indonesians look towards choosing only their third leader since the introduction of direct presidential elections in 2004, the backroom manoeuvring by the country’s patchwork of political parties to select candidates is underway.

Pranowo, like Widodo, is a member of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), the biggest party in the president’s ruling super coalition, and like the former furniture salesman from Solo he has also not emerged from Indonesia’s political elite or the military.

The son of a policeman and housewife, he grew up in Karanganyar, a region of Central Java on the slopes of Mount Lawu, before studying law and political science and then becoming an MP in 2004.

If his was an “ordinary” upbringing, though, it is an establishment figure of the highest order, who will determine whether Pranowo is ultimately in the presidential race.

Prabowo Subianto run unsuccessfully against Widodo in 2014 and 2019 but was then included in his cabinet.Credit:AP

Megawati Sukarnoputri, the daughter of Indonesia’s founding father and first president Sukarno, has made clear it is up to her, as PDI-P chair, to decide who the party will throw its weight behind.

It is the only political group that has enough seats in the 575-member House of Representatives to meet, on its own, the 20 per cent threshold required to nominate a presidential and vice-presidential duo. Others must join forces to reach that bar.

Dynastic politics is still thriving in Indonesia and Megawati is known to want to put her daughter Puan Maharani, the parliamentary house speaker, on the party’s ticket. But her low scores in voter surveys count against her and suggest a vice-presidential berth at best.

Widodo, by contrast, is enjoying soaring popularity levels, ending last year with a 71 per cent approval rating, and while he doesn’t strictly have a say on which combination PDI-P settles on, his endorsement will carry much influence.

As Jakarta governor, Anies Baswedan was front and centre in the fight to contain COVID-19.Credit:Dadang Kusuma Wira Saputra

Arya Fernandes, a political expert from the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Jakarta, said vice-presidential choices would also sway voters but the Widodo factor was significant.

“Jokowi has loyal voters, they are like 10 to 15 per cent of total national voters. Most of them will go to Ganjar, only a small percentage will go to Anies and Prabowo,” he said.

“People know that Ganjar is Jokowi’s crown prince.”

One reason speculated for Widodo’s backing of Pranowo relates to the president’s determination that Indonesia sees through his signature project – the $48 billion relocation of the capital from Jakarta to a new city called Nusantara he plans to have built in East Kalimantan province on Borneo.

Megawati Sukarnoputri addresses an event marking the 50th anniversary of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle this month.Credit:Bloomberg

The ambitious venture has yet to draw the private investment needed for it to take shape, however, and Baswedan signalled doubts about shifting the capital while speaking at an event held by Singapore’s ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute this month. 

“We did not have open, intensive and extensive conversations on why we need to establish a new capital and why we need to relocate,” said the 53-year-old ex-university rector.

Subianto, 71, the former Indonesian special forces general who was beaten by Widodo in the 2014 and 2019 elections but then installed in his cabinet, has said previously he was supportive of the relocation.

The president may assess Pranowo, though, to be the best bet to secure his legacy, Fernandes said.

“I see that Jokowi has an interest to see that the next government will continue to develop the new capital city,” he said. “And perhaps Jokowi thinks that Ganjar can fulfil that expectation.”

Djayadi Hanan, the executive director of the Indonesia Survey Institute, said Pranowo benefited from sharing Widodo’s common touch.

“Ganjar looks more similar to Jokowi in his approach to people,” he said. “Ganjar likes to do impromptu visits just like Jokowi. The way he speaks is also simple. He comes from an ordinary family just like Jokowi, not from a political elite family. So, PDI-P voters see Jokowi’s representation more in Ganjar than in Puan Maharani.”

Analysts stress, however, that there are any number of permutations still in play, including the potential for PDI-P to back former special forces general Prabowo in a coalition with his party Gerindra.

Hanan also pointed out that while Pranowo had the highest electability among would-be candidates, his position was far from dominant.

“Many of Jokowi’s supporters are indeed Ganjar’s supporters but the number is only around 45 per cent. More than 50 per cent of Jokowi’s supporters have not decided whom they will vote for,” he said.

“We still have many possibilities right now. Nobody knows exactly who will run.”

Whether there will ultimately be two or three presidential tickets on election day is also unknown.

If there are three, there is very likely to be a second round required two months later to determine a winner.

“The public see Ganjar and Prabowo as Jokowi’s successors,” said Aditya Perdana, the executive director of the University of Indonesia’s Centre of Political Studies.

“I think the key lies with PDI-P. Other parties are waiting [for PDI-P’s candidates]. Once PDI-P announces its candidates, the configuration of party coalitions will immediately be built and we will know whether there will be two pairs or three pairs of candidates.”

Get a note directly from our foreign correspondents on what’s making headlines around the world. Sign up for the weekly What in the World newsletter here.

Most Viewed in World

From our partners

Source: Read Full Article