Indonesia’s Prabowo to ‘expand wings of coalition’ with ‘attractive offers’ to former rivals

After his victory was made official, the 74-year-old former general gave a speech calling for unity “to achieve the ideals that our nation hopes for.”

“But after this, the people demanded that all leadership elements must work together. We must collaborate to bring goodness, to bring prosperity, to eliminate poverty, to eliminate hunger, to eliminate corruption in the Indonesian nation,” he said.

The National Democratic Party (Nasdem), which had supported Anies in the election and won 10 per cent of the vote, was the first to confirm it was ready to join Prabowo’s coalition, with Nasdem chief Surya Paloh telling reporters his party was prepared to offer its “full support” after he met with the president-elect on Thursday.

Prabowo also reconciled with one of his rival candidates, Muhaimin Iskandar – the chairman of Islamic-leaning National Awakening Party (PKB) who was also Anies’ running mate – signalling that PKB would also likely align with the president-elect’s coalition.

“PKB and Gerindra … have been working together in parliament and the executive [branch], and we want to continue to work together more productively,” Muhaimin said on Wednesday.

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Indonesia’s new leader Prabowo Subianto meets Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing

Indonesia’s new leader Prabowo Subianto meets Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing

Prabowo said the two want to “continue to work together … to achieve our goals of eliminating poverty, hunger, corruption, and bringing prosperity.”

The Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), another Islamist party that supported Anies’ candidacy, has not indicated if it would ally itself with Prabowo, with its chairperson Ahmad Syaiku on Tuesday saying the party “will maintain a critical stance.”

Prabowo’s early moves as the official president-elect underline his intent to “expand the wings of his coalition”, a strategy that relies on “attractive offers” for political parties such as ministerial posts or cushy positions at state-owned companies, said Nicky Fahrizal, political researcher at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies Indonesia (CSIS).

“Prabowo needs political stability. He has calculated that there is no tradition of an effective or well-coordinated opposition [in Indonesia], so it is better to invite as many political parties as possible, [including those] who were at odds with him,” Fahrizal said.

Is Indonesia’s Prabowo solidifying legitimacy with visits to foreign leaders?

Persuading the ruling party

The biggest challenge for Prabowo will be in persuading the ruling party, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), to join his coalition.

PDI-P was the biggest winner of February’s legislative elections, earning 16.72 per cent of the vote, edging out the Golkar party which received 15.29 per cent. Prabowo’s Gerindra party came third with 13.22 per cent.

While PDI-P’s victory was not as substantial as in 2019 when it captured nearly three per cent more of the vote, it could still pose a significant obstacle for the incoming president if they decide to become the opposition.

Incumbent Indonesian President Joko Widodo talks to journalists accompanied by former leader Megawati Sukarnoputri (left) during a press conference in Jakarta in 2019. Photo: EPA-EFE

Dahnil Simanjutak, Prabowo’s spokesman, said on Thursday that PDI-P’s chairwoman, former president Megawati Sukarnoputri, would meet Prabowo soon. The president-elect was Megawati’s vice-presidential running mate in 2009.

Analysts said that it might be difficult for Prabowo to persuade PDI-P to join his coalition due to the animosity between Megawati and Widodo, following the president’s decision to support Prabowo and Gibran’s ticket instead of PDI-P’s presidential candidate Ganjar.

PDI-P had long supported Widodo and his family members in various elections, including Widodo’s presidential campaigns in 2014 and 2019 and Gibran’s mayoral run for the city of Solo in 2021.

On Monday, Komarudin Watubun, chairman of the PDIP central leadership council for honorary affairs, said that both Widodo and Gibran were no longer PDI-P members since they “have crossed the aisle” by joining Prabowo’s campaign.

Widodo and Gibran no longer PDI-P members for supporting Prabowo: official

“This statement reflects that PDI-P no longer has any ties or closeness to Jokowi and Gibran,” said Firman Noor, political researcher with the Jakarta-based National Research and Innovation Agency, referring to Widodo’s popular nickname.

Despite the discord, Alexander Arifianto, senior fellow with the Indonesia programme at S Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, said that there is “a big chance” that PDI-P will join Prabowo’s coalition.

“Prabowo has a pretty good personal relationship with Megawati. They can get along. For PDI-P to join the coalition, they would want Prabowo to minimise Jokowi’s role in Prabowo’s future government. The problem is whether Prabowo can fulfil this request or not?” Arifianto said.

If Prabowo’s political agenda is good and provides welfare for the people, they will support it, but if his agenda is at odds with PDI-P’s values, they will criticise it

Nicky Fahrizal, political researcher

Nicky Fahrizal of CSIS said there is third option for PDI-P besides becoming the opposition or a member of Prabowo’s coalition.

“PDI-P might play the role of a critical party. If Prabowo’s political agenda is good and provides welfare for the people, they will support it, but if his agenda is at odds with PDI-P’s values, they will criticise it. There’s only a small possibility they would become a genuine opposition,” Fahrizal said.

The party’s leaders are set to announce their decision after a national meeting next month.

Arifianto argues that while Prabowo having a big coalition would ensure a stable government supportive of his agenda, it would also come with a weakness.

“Once they have entered a coalition, they can no longer be critical of any mistakes that occurred in the regime, such as corruption, or other scandals that arise. They cannot be critical and the checks and balance system does not work,” he said.

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