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INDONESIA POLLS: PDI-P reaches out to possible coalition allies

Publication Date : 11-04-2014


A day after the Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P) won Indonesia's general election by a weaker showing than expected, it began reaching out to possible coalition partners to secure its chance of fielding Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo for the July 9 presidential election.

PDI-P leaders say the party is looking at a potential tie-up with Golkar and two moderate Muslim parties - the National Awakening Party (PKB) and the National Mandate Party (PAN) - both of which are linked to the country's two largest Muslim organisations, Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah.

Another possible coalition partner is the National Democratic Party (NasDem). PDI-P secretary-general Tjahjo Kumolo paid NasDem chairman Surya Paloh a visit yesterday morning, prompting talk of an alliance.

"We are open to communicating with anyone to resolve national problems," said Joko, popularly known as Jokowi, later in the day in response to reporters' questions about the meeting.

Dominic Berger of the Australian National University, writing on the New Mandala academic website, noted that "a PDI-P- Golkar-PKB-PAN-NasDem alliance would not only be a stable coalition, but a progressive one".

What cannot be lost too on party leaders is the combined strength of such a link-up, which would account for more than half the seats in the 560-seat House - useful for legislative purposes beyond getting PDI-P over the 112-seat threshold for nominating Joko as its presidential candidate.

The PDI-P is likely to get between 106 and 118 seats after Wednesday's election, which drew a 73 per cent voter turnout.

According to the final quick-count tally by pollsters Saiful Mujani-LSI, the PDI-P won 19 per cent of the vote, Golkar 15 per cent, PKB 9 per cent, PAN 7.7 per cent and NasDem, contesting its first election, got 6.7 per cent.

While the final seat count will be confirmed only early next month, the parties are already busy sending out feelers to potential partners with two goals in mind.
In the shorter term, there is the need to cobble together a team to meet the 112-seat criterion for nominating a presidential candidate by May 16.

In the longer term, the parties are also exploring a legislative majority for the next five years, and that means even overlooking the fact that a potential coalition partner is set on having its own presidential nominee.

As PDI-P board member Effendi Simbolon told reporters: "If our seats are enough, we will back Jokowi on our own. But after that... we have to think about getting support in Parliament."

As to the likely final combination of a coalition led by the PDI-P, Berger told The Straits Times: "There is good reason to be optimistic that the next government will be more inclined to defend pluralist values and minority rights."

Before the results were out, Joko had warned that he would not be strapped down by the sort of horse trading that bedevilled the outgoing government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

"They should know we're not going to repeat this administration's mistake and be forced to give away ministerial posts and other concessions in exchange for support," he said earlier this week.

However, it would be hard for the PDI-P to insist on that after its relatively disappointing results and its need to gain the support of a heavyweight like Golkar.

Dissecting the polling outcome, the PDI-P found it failed to link the popular Joko with the party to a sufficient extent, with its TV advertisements failing to display his image until the last three days of the campaign period. Party officials and pundits estimate that at least a quarter of the votes that would have gone to the PDI-P did not due to this misstep.

Political scientist Sukardi Rinakit told The Straits Times that votes could also have been lost as a result of candidates from other parties assuring voters that Joko would still be president even if they voted for these other parties rather than the PDI-P.

Damage was also done by the Gerindra party's Prabowo Subianto, who waged an aggressive campaign targeting Joko for being weak and his PDI-P for not keeping to promises made.

The next few months will only get tougher for Joko as Prabowo, his keenest rival, steps up his fight for the presidency.


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