Official: Joko Widodo Named 2014 Presidential Candidate by Megawati

A man sits by a poster urging Joko Widodo to run in the presidential race in Cipinang, North Jakarta, on Dec. 16, 2013. (JG Photo/Safir Makki)

A man sits by a poster urging Joko Widodo to run in the presidential race in Cipinang, North Jakarta, on Dec. 16, 2013. (JG Photo/Safir Makki)

Jakarta. Will Indonesia look back on Friday, March 14 as the day the 2014 presidential election was decided?

The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) nominated the wildly popular Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo as its presidential candidate on Friday, putting to an end months of speculation as to whether party chairwoman Megawati Sukarnoputri was readying her fourth bid for the highest office in the world’s fourth-largest country.

The governor took a break from an impromptu visit to subsidized housing in Marunda, North Jakarta to welcome the news on Friday. He told a crowd of reporters and local residents that he was prepared to mount a campaign for the July election.

“I have been given the blessing of PDI-P chairwoman Megawati Sukarnoputri to be a presidential candidate,” Joko said before touching his head to the Indonesian flag in a show of respect. “Bismillahirrahmanirahim, I am ready.”

The PDI-P made the official announcement on Friday afternoon as Megawati read from a handwritten note at the party’s headquarters in Lenteng Agung, South Jakarta. The one-time president made a direct appeal to Indonesian voters, asking them to support Joko in the coming presidential campaign.

“My command is, as the PDI-P chairwoman, to the people of Indonesia who have consciousness for justice and honesty wherever you are: support Bapak Joko Widodo as PDI-P presidential candidate,” Megawati read.

She also urged voters to keep a watchful eye for election fraud during this April’s hugely important legislative elections. Political observers expect the PDI-P, the country’s main opposition party, to receive a boost in the legislative race amid growing discontent with members of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s ruling coalition.

The PDI-P received 14 percent of the popular vote in the 2009 election, securing enough seats to control 19.69 percent of the House of Representatives. But the opposition party will have to convince a sizable percentage of new voters to mount a presidential campaign alone. Political parties need 25 percent of the vote or 20 percent of the House to nominate a presidential candidate without forming a coalition.

Yudhoyono tightened his grip on the House after the 2009 election, forming a six-party coalition that stands opposite the PDI-P. But  a series of high-profile graft cases have all but destroyed the Democratic Party’s upper echelons and the president has struggled to keep the more unruly members, like the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), in check.

The outcome of April’s legislative race will set the tone for the coming election, narrowing the crowded playing field to a few candidates and kick off the official campaign season. With Joko’s presidential bid at least partially on the line, Megawati asked her supporters to do whatever they could to ensure a clean election.

“Protect and guard the 2014 legislative elections, especially at polling booths and during tallying of the votes, from any fraud and intimidation,” Megawati said. “Strengthen your heart in guarding the democracy in our beloved Republic of Indonesia.”

The timing of the announcement, which came after months of silence from both Joko and Megawati, will likely bode well for PDI-P candidates in the legislative elections. The official legislative campaign season begins on Sunday, March 16 — giving voters a weekend to digest the news of Joko’s run before the PDI-P takes to the streets.

“Making the announcement before the legislative elections will make the PDI-P’s electability the highest among all the parties,” said Wawan Ichwanudin, a political science lecturer at the University of Indonesia. “But there is still a possibility that Jokowi will lose the race.

“There are still undecided voters and other candidates. To date, Jokowi’s electability hasn’t surpassed 50 percent, so there is still a chance for any other candidate.”

If Joko fails to break the 50 percent threshold in the July election, the race will be decided with a run-off vote between the two most popular candidates. The governor was able to secure his position in Jakarta with a run-off, trouncing incumbent Fauzi Bowo, but a presidential race is an entirely different beast, Wawan warned.

“With less than 50 percent, there would have to be a second round of the election,” he explained. “This will give another chance for other candidates to team up against Jokowi and gather their votes. The possibility that this other team might win the race is still a reality.”

Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo speaks with reporters in Marunda, North Jakarta, after the official announcement of his candidacy in the presidential race. (SP Photo/Carlos Paath)

Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo speaks with reporters in Marunda, North Jakarta, after the official announcement of his candidacy in the presidential race. (SP Photo/Carlos Paath)

Poll position

Joko routinely tops electability polls, but contenders like the Great Indonesia Movement Party’s (Gerindra) Prabowo Subianto and the Golkar Party’s Aburizal Bakrie are still at his heels. Both men announced their candidacy early in the game and have been making the rounds to drum up support ahead of the campaign season.

Aburizal, a mining and property tycoon, is pushing for a protectionist stance on Indonesia’s natural resources and is banking on the emergence of New Order nostalgia to provide a push for the Golkar Party — the one-time election machine of Indonesian strongman Suharto.

He has repeatedly gone on the record to say that Joko’s candidacy is a non-issue as far as he is concerned. The only real threats, Aburizal said, were Megawati and Prabowo.

Prabowo, the former leader of the nation’s feared Kopassus Special Forces, has taken great pains to recast himself as populist leader with a firm grip. His Gerindra party has embarked on an aggressive social media campaign illustrating the party’s commitment to anti-corruption and nationalism ahead of the election.

But allegations of human rights offenses, including kidnapping and killings during the chaos that capped off Suharto’s reign, could prove to be a substantial hurdle for Prabowo’s popularity among the nation’s emerging middle class.

Gerindra supported Joko and his running mate Basuki Tjahaja Purnama in the Jakarta gubernatorial race. But while Basuki has remained loyal to the Gerindra party, Joko was always with the PDI-P. The pre-election rumor mill has swirled with suggestions of a Joko-Prabowo joint ticket, peaking after Basuki made a Chinese New Year visit to Prabowo’s mountain-side compound, but so far any mention of a coalition remain speculation.

One Gerindra official said the party was not concerned with Joko’s emergence as a contender in the race.

“We have no problem at all,” said Habiburohman, the head of advocacy at Gerindra. “We are ready to compete with anyone. Prabowo has his own qualities, so we’re welcome to any contenders.”

Deserting the Durian?

Joko will have to answer for attempting to leave behind his post as the head of Indonesia’s chaotic capital less than halfway through his term, Habiburohman said. The governor rode into office on a reform ticket and promised to clean up Jakarta’s glacial bureaucracy.

Plans to expand the capital’s public transportation system, including the much-delayed construction of a monorail and mass-rapid transit line, have begun in earnest but it will be years before Jakarta residents feel the impact on their daily lives. The governor has, in the past, promised that his attentions were on the capital, not Merdeka Palace, but Friday’s announcement has cemented Joko’s ambitions for higher office.

“How people see it, his unfinished responsibility in Jakarta and his commitment will be a question that Jokowi has to eventually answer,” Habiburohman said. “It’s his business, not ours.”

Jakarta’s deputy governor suggested Joko take a leave of absence during the campaign season instead of vacating his office. There was still a mountain of work to be done in the capital that needed Joko’s attention, Basuki said.

“All this time, the Governor has trusted me to lead meetings,” Basuki said. “I can make decisions. Or if there is anything Pak Jokowi wants to say, he can always call me during meetings.”

 

  • The Hangman

    I guess that means that he is now eligible to fumble at a national level!

  • Justin

    Wisdom comes with the years, hurrah for Mega!

    • The Hangman

      Took a long time, however!

  • NP

    ha ha ha to the konvensi Partai Demokrat

  • PakLe

    fantastic news!

  • billy

    About time too….congratulations :)

  • Foreskin_Man

    Just the right timing. Well done PDI-P

  • Max Headroom

    Great decision! Now hopefully Prabowo’s lead is not so much of a lead anymore. I think his party still needs to get the 20% benchmark to even announce their candidate, isn’t it?

    On second thought – who’s going to be the VP with Jokowi? Hopefully an able person as Ahok and not some political ghost of the past….

  • sumdood

    Who will fill in his place? Whoever will be President next will still have to reside in the Capital and face the same BS. There is still unfinished business to be made like the MRT and the Monorail projects in the the capital. Should Joko win the presidency, will he be able to deliver his inspirational ideas with the replacing Governor of Jakarta? Poor Ahok. Move him up a notch.

  • henk

    for once i’m afraid i agree with hangman here…. there’s just no way they will let him change anything, if he tries they’ll pull a gus dur on him, they’ll think of something, i kind of pity him, his life is not his to live anymore, it’s like that metalica concert where he went a few months ago, sitting in the vip lounge with all the big shots, lamenting to journalists how he didn’t want to sit there, how he wanted to be downstairs with all the other real fans in the front, partying and singing the tunes of his favorite band….

    • mrlogic

      I agree henk. Nothing much has changed or will change in Jakarta, even when he tried to get some new buses-something for the people – (a first) it was ruined by corruption.

  • sumdood

    Wondering that some or even most may have ADD. And no one has been tried to be diagnosed with it.

  • PakLe

    Who would you pick?

  • joyoboyo

    As much as I will miss Rhoma Irama’s overall awesomeness, my heart soars like a hawk to hear of the great Mas joining the fray. He has Joyoboyo’s endorsement of course. The Kings of Dwipa are coming back, it is written.

  • jblnor

    So what makes him different than anyone else in indonesian politics. All SBY has done is talk. Jokowi is by far the best option. Name one leader who could have done a better job with Jakarta in this short of time. What has Prabowo done? Bakrie? Sorry you can say Jokowi is not the right guy for the job but then who do you suggest?

    • slick

      I don’t really expect you to understand
      If he gets elected you will then understand, when its to late, he is biting off way more than he can eat, for his on good, hopefully he will not get elected
      he would be in way over his head for sure

  • LUWANTO

    LUWANTO
    I believe that Pak Joko has the political will to do what it takes to lead the country. First
    priority should be to review the judiciary, the existing laws (local & sharia), the Judges, Ministers and Ministries that have fallen behind its fiduciary obligations. Use the latest set of Laws meaningfully i.e. THE PUBLIC IS ABLE TO FILE LAWSUITS AGAINST CORRUPT POLITICAL PARTY MEMBERS. In which case Pak Joko has to safeguard his own party members too! Remember that when people start to sue, Dewan members will have to think twice before they start to ask for ‘holiday’ money or else they will lose their seat. This Law is SINE QUA NON – arguably the best elixir to teach corrupt officials to back off.
    LUWANTO
    15 March 2014

  • LUWANTO

    LUWANTO
    To: PakLe
    Your comment is excellent – almost sublime. Let’s face it, no Man is perfect, does not need to have a string of degrees, uses his amiable traits and common sense to reach out to one and all. Finally, he has a trusted team of civil servants that work and produce results – that’s what you want, don’t you?
    LUWANTO
    15 March 2014

    • PakLe

      Thanks, that’s very kind of you.

  • PakLe

    You think Indonesia can really afford four more years heading in the section it’s currently going? And “many people have no idea what they’re talking about” is a wonderful way to start a discussion.

    • Dave

      it is. Many people here so clueless that gets blinded by Jokowi Mania or whatever. The fact is, jokowi is unproven yet in Jakarta. And no, Indonesia is doing decent with the leadership of SBY, it just need someone with vast experience and quality leadership

  • blakep

    The other day much to my horror I noticed the container of strawberries I bought the night before had already gone moldy. There was one clean, seemingly perfect looking one on top. I ignored it and went to work. A few hours later I came back and the good strawberry also had turned a vile, stinky shade of blue. I threw the whole lot to the stray dogs outside who also turned up their nose at them in disgust – too gross even for a bunch of mangy, trash-eating, diseased mutts. Grim stuff.

  • Dave

    lol you must be joking, what he accomplished? the MRT is already there since Fauzi bowo term and about to start when he left and the jokowow was delaying the project for some nonsense inquiry yet he finally agreed and continue with the project (after 6 months of delay) and dont start with the Monorail, busway and floods

  • Ian Thomson

    It is actually his job to delegate.
    I’d say delegating Ahok to do the dirty work shows he is an astute leader.