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Indonesia's ruling party under pressure to scale down target

Publication Date : 18-03-2014


A Democratic Party executive has said that the nomination of popular Jakarta Governor Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo as a presidential candidate may prompt the party to nominate only a vice presidential candidate, despite its ongoing presidential convention.

The decision on whether the party would nominate a presidential or vice presidential candidate would be the prerogative of the supreme assembly, the party’s highest organ that is chaired by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the secretary of the convention’s committee, Lt. Gen. (ret) Suaidi Marasabessy said on Sunday.

“We cannot predict what the assembly will eventually decide. The possibility [that the convention winner will be nominated as a vice presidential candidate] is there. But for now, we are sticking to what we have been tasked to do, which is to conduct the convention and present the result to the assembly,” he said.

M. Qodari, a political analyst from Indo Barometer, said Jokowi’s nomination worsened the Democratic Party’s chances in both the legislative and presidential elections. It could also have a negative impact on the convention if none of the participants were nominated at all.

“In the current situation, the Democratic Party will likely find it very hard to nominate a presidential candidate. It may possibly nominate a vice presidential candidate instead, but is there any guarantee that the supreme assembly will pick someone from the convention?” he said.

Qodari reiterated that, according to the party’s statute, the decision to nominate a presidential or vice presidential candidate lay solely in the hands of the supreme assembly.

The party’s executive chairman, who is also a member of the assembly, Syariefuddin Hasan, acknowledged that the assembly could base its decision on other factors.

“Popularity is not the only key to winning people’s hearts,” said the cooperatives and small and medium enterprises minister. “We should also take into account track records, capacity and competence.”

Numerous surveys have shown that the ruling party will struggle to reach double digits in the percentage of votes gained in the April 9 legislative election, thanks to the graft cases implicating an array of Democratic Party members — both former and current.

The Election Law stipulates that a party must gain at least 25 per cent of the vote or control 20 per cent of the seats in the House of Representatives to nominate a candidate.

However, Suaidi said that any decision by the assembly would be based on the results of the legislative election. “All Democratic Party members are now focusing on the legislative votes. Even the convention has been halted for this purpose,” he said.

Charta Politika analyst Arya Fernandes said the Democratic Party could still manage to form a coalition in order to nominate a presidential candidate.

“There is a certain prestige for the ruling party to nominate a presidential candidate. Whether the candidate wins or not is another matter,” he said.

Even if the party failed to meet the threshold, the fact that the Democratic Party was the ruling party and that that it was led by President Yudhoyono, the party’s most popular figure, made it an attractive coalition partner for other parties, Arya said.

Also on Sunday, State-Owned Enterprises Minister Dahlan Iskan, one of the convention’s 11 participants, announced that he had officially joined the party.

When asked for his reasons, Dahlan only said, “because the convention has ended”; but in fact it has not. Suaidi previously said the convention would hold two or three more public debates following the legislative election, before conducting a conclusive survey on the electability ratings of all the participants.

Dahlan said he was confident he would be the winner of the convention, and indicated that the remaining debates would make no difference, given that some surveys had ranked him number one among the 11 contenders — by a
considerable margin.

When asked about the chance of the convention’s winner only being nominated as a vice presidential candidate, Dahlan said he would think about that later.

Another convention participant, Yudhoyono’s brother in-law, Gen. (ret) Pramono Edhie Wibowo, previously said he was ready to be nominated as a vice presidential candidate, even alongside Jokowi.


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