By Nazarudin Latif and Pizaro Gozali Idrus
Prabowo Subianto’s chances of winning the 2024 Indonesian presidential election brightened after he secured the backing over the weekend of two additional parties who support the current incumbent’s policies, analysts said.
Prabowo, a former army general who is the defense minister, is making a third run for the presidency, this time in an effort to succeed President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, who defeated him in the 2014 and 2019 presidential elections. In June, Jokowi’s approval rating reached 79% – the highest since he took office at the start of his first term in 2014.
Prabowo leads a coalition whose members represent 46% of the House of Representatives. Over the weekend, the Golkar and National Mandate parties joined the coalition, which includes Prabowo’s Gerindra Party and the National Awakening Party.
Winning the backing of those two parties boosts Prabowo’s chances of winning the election, said Denny Januar Ali, a political analyst who founded the Indonesia Survey Circle (LSI).
“As long as Prabowo does not make any fatal blunders, the result of the 2024 presidential election will be favorable for him,” Denny said in a statement.
Prabowo’s main rival is Central Java Gov. Ganjar Pranowo, who is backed by the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, which is the largest party in Parliament but also Jokowi’s party.
Another contender is former Jakarta Gov. Anies Baswedan, who is supported by the Nasdem Party, the Muslim-based Prosperous Justice Party and the opposition Democratic Party.
LSI, a private polling company, said Prabowo’s support rose from 23% in January to nearly 36% in July, surpassing Ganjar at 35% and Anies at 21%.
“There has been a trend of strengthening support for Prabowo since January,” said Djayadi Hanan, the pollster’s executive director.
The LSI survey, conducted from July 3 to 15, showed Prabowo had 52% of the vote in a head-to-head matchup with Ganjar, who had 41.6% support.
Other recent polls by Indikator and Lembaga Survei Nasional showed Prabowo ahead of Ganjar and Anies by margins of about 5% to 10%.
The presidential election is scheduled for Feb. 14, 2024, along with legislative elections for national and local bodies.
Presidential candidates must be nominated by parties or coalitions that have at least 20% of the House seats or 25% of the popular vote in the previous election.
Prabowo’s coalition is the largest and most stable among the potential candidates for the 2024 presidential election, which is expected to be a tight and competitive race, according to analysts.
During a Sunday speech, Prabowo, whose former father-in-law was President Suharto – the late dictator who ruled Indonesia for 32 years until his fall in 1998 – promised to run a positive campaign.
“We will compete with courage and honor. We will launch an open campaign that will not slander or insult anyone,” he said during a speech at a museum in Central Jakarta where the four parties signed a political pact to support him.
Jokowi steers clear of endorsement
Prabowo has been trying to improve his image and appeal to a wider range of voters since losing to Jokowi in 2019.
He has reconciled with Jokowi, who appointed him defense minister that year.
Still, Prabowo is trying to shake off accusations that he committed human rights violations during his military career in the Army’s special forces (Kopassus). He has also been criticized for his ties to business interests.
Jokowi is constitutionally barred from running for a third time and has not publicly endorsed any candidate while praising Prabowo and Ganjar.
Prabowo’s supporters said he was the right leader to steer Indonesia toward becoming a developed country.
“Mr. Prabowo has the leadership quality to bring us out of the middle-income trap,” said Airlangga Hartarto, chairman of the Golkar party and coordinating minister for economic affairs.
Some political analysts said Prabowo’s coalition may indicate Jokowi’s tacit endorsement.
“Even though the support is not openly stated as Jokowi’s direction and stance, indirectly, the parties that support Prabowo can be seen as receiving a signal from Jokowi,” Arifki Chaniago, an analyst from Aljabar Strategic, told BenarNews.
“Jokowi’s influence is more felt in Prabowo’s coalition than in Ganjar’s camp,” he said.
The president has denied any involvement in the formation of any alliances.
“I am not a party chairman. I am the president. That is their business. It is up to them to form coalitions or partnerships,” Jokowi said on Monday.
Ganjar and Anies, meanwhile, said they were not intimidated by Prabowo’s coalition.
Ganjar said he respected the choices of other parties and hoped that they would focus on presenting their visions and programs to the public instead of engaging in negative campaigns.
“I think this is normal. All parties are negotiating. If some parties join one camp, that is their political right,” he said in a statement.
Ganjar has faced criticism and backlash from football fans for his role in FIFA’s decision in March to strip Indonesia of its right to host football’s Under-20 World Cup.
He was among those who voiced opposition to Israel’s participation in the tournament. Muslim-majority Indonesia does not have diplomatic relations with Israel, but Jokowi had said sports and politics should not mix.
Anies, meanwhile, said he was confident that he had the support of many Indonesians.
“We congratulate Golkar and PAN for joining the coalition. But we will keep going forward with God’s blessing,” Anies said, according to the Tempo.co news portal.