Will Prabowo’s Backing of Jokowi Backfire in 2014?
Lenny Tristia Tambun & Ezra Sihite
While many agree that the first-round victory of Solo Mayor Joko Widodo in the Jakarta gubernatorial election has boosted ex-general Prabowo Subianto’s chances of winning the 2014 presidential election, analysts contend that both could end up competing for the presidency.
Observers have said that both Joko, known as Jokowi, and his running mate, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, or Ahok, owe their current political position to Prabowo, founder of the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra), with his financial contributions and political support.
Fachry Ali, a political expert from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), said on Monday that when the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) was still hesitant to support the pair, Prabowo took charge and convinced the party to throw its support behind them.
“Prabowo pushed the two to run,” he said. “He now has political leverage over them and the PDI-P, which is much larger than Gerindra, to use in the presidential election.”
Fachry added that Prabowo had improved his image by personally endorsing Ahok, a Chinese-Indonesian who many say represents the Chinese community in Indonesia. Prabowo was once accused of being behind anti-Chinese violence just ahead of the fall of Suharto, his former father-in-law, in 1998.
Sofyan Wanandi, a leading ethnic Chinese businessman, recounted in an interview with author Adam Schwartz how Prabowo once told him that he was prepared to “drive all Chinese out of the country, even if that sets the economy back 20 or 30 years.”
University of Indonesia political expert Arbi Sanit agreed that the Jakarta election results had strengthened Prabowo’s chances for the upcoming presidential election.
“But it depends on whether he can convince the PDI-P to back him because Gerindra is too small to support his candidacy,” Arbi added.
Under the election law, a party or coalition must have won 20 percent of votes in the preceding legislative election in order to nominate a presidential candidate. The PDI-P won 14 percent in the 2009 polls and Gerindra won 4.5 percent.
“That’s the problem for Prabowo,” Fachry said. “The PDI-P can decide to nominate Jokowi because his popularity will surpass Prabowo’s, and party chairwoman Megawati [Sukarnoputri] is very close to him.”
Jokowi could be seen by PDI-P stalwarts as a proponent of marhaenism , the idea of siding with the poor as taught by Sukarno, Megawati’s father and the country’s first president.
“Jokowi has all the momentum,” Fachry said. “His likely victory in the Jakarta election and the fact that the PDI-P has no strong figurehead to support in the presidential election, except Megawati, provides the perfect momentum for him to win the presidency.”