The Struggle for Emerging Presidential Contenders

By webadmin on 08:50 am Dec 17, 2012
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Jakarta Globe

Throughout 2012, new names for presidential candidates have emerged in the mainstream and social media, but the old names continue to dominate the news.

Despite so many names popping up in public discussions, the nature of the debate has made a clear distinction between the contenders and the pretenders for the 2014 presidential election.

First, no matter how popular the figures are, they cannot become contenders if they are not qualified to run in the election. The major obstacle to run for able candidates is the presidential threshold.

While legislators are still negotiating the threshold required to make a bid for the presidency, many say the current figure of 20 percent will be maintained, meaning anyone intending to run needs support from a party or coalition of parties that have won at least 20 percent of the popular vote in the legislative election.

All the major parties at the House of Representatives want a high threshold, with the Golkar Party even suggesting 25 percent, while the Democratic Party is eyeing the range between 15 and 20 percent.

If the prevailing figure of 20 percent holds, then the 2014 election will only see three or four candidates run for the country’s top job, as Article 6 of the Constitution obviates the possibility of an independent candidate, says Aleksius Jemadu, dean of Pelita Harapan University’s (UPH) School of Social and Political Sciences.

“We’re still waiting for the new law on the presidential election. But if the current threshold is maintained then we can only see three or four pairs of candidates run in the upcoming election,” he said.

With the same threshold, only three candidates ran in the 2009 election.

Taking these conditions into consideration, the only real contenders at this point are Megawati Sukarnoputri, the former president, and business tycoon and Golkar chairman Aburizal Bakrie.

Regardless of internal wrangling, Golkar has formally nominated Aburizal as its presidential candidate.

By doing so, the party, which won 14.5 percent of the vote in the 2009 legislative election, has effectively closed the door on all other contenders, including those from inside the party.

That means that although former vice president and ex-Golkar chairman Jusuf Kalla is more popular than Aburizal according to most recent surveys, he must look to other parties for support if he chooses to mount a bid.

Megawati, chairwoman of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), which won 14 percent of votes in 2009, has yet to announce her candidacy, but did indicate recently that she might run, dashing the hopes of retired general Prabowo Subianto of obtaining the party’s nod.

Most polls have named Prabowo as the leading candidate for 2014, ahead of even Megawati and Kalla. However, many noted that his bid could be over before it begins because of a lack of party support.

However, analysts say Prabowo burned his bridges with the PDI-P by glorifying his role in the Jakarta gubernatorial poll, thereby damaging his chances of being selected by Megawati. Though she did not mention Prabowo by name, the former president blasted “free riders” that took credit for Joko Widodo’s election victory.

Prabowo has two options left if he wants to run. One is to persuade President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to allow his Democratic Party, which won 20.8 percent of votes in 2009, to support him.

A less likely scenario is that he forms a coalition with several minor parties.

However, the biggest question in 2012 and heading into 2013 is who Yudhoyono will back. With the Democrats taking a shellacking from a host of graft allegations, Yudhoyono has indicated that the party will seek an outsider as its presidential candidate, saying that the party will only support the most popular figure.

Besides Prabowo and Kalla, others mentioned as possible picks for the Democrats include chief economics minister Hatta Rajasa and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Pramono Edhie Wibowo, both of whom are in-laws of the president.

Others include chief security minister Djoko Suyanto, Trade Minister Gita Wirjawan and Constitutional Court Chief Justice Mahfud M.D.