E16: Widodo's Coalition and Next VP Candidate
On this episode of Indonesia In-depth podcast, we cover Widodo's expectations and negotiations with his coalition partners and Vice President Kalla's efforts to run for a third term as VP. Here are the episode key points:
Despite what the news headlines state, Widodo has yet to decide who will be his next VP candidate.
It’s becoming more and more likely that President Widodo’s next vice presidential candidate will not come from a political party but rather be an outsider.
As I stated in previous updates, some senior party members in the government coalition such as Golkar and PKB, have privately suggested it might be prudent to withhold party resources and machinery for Widodo’s reelection bid if they are not rewarded with the vice presidential seat or if not promised with a large number of cabinet seats as a substitute in a future Widodo administration.
The campaign issue had been a concern for Widodo early on in his VP decision process as he needs support for the reelection campaign groundwork. However, the president has now begun to manage his expectations of his coalition members, particularly after the 171 regional elections that took place less than a month ago.
Widodo’s first priority was to get the parties officially onboard to join his coalition to meet the 20% House seat threshold requirement to qualify as a presidential candidate with the National Election Commission or KPU. His current coalition far exceeds the requirement.
Widodo’s PDIP party failed to have a strong showing in the regional elections last June. Golkar and PKB also had issues and were unable to provide strong support on the ground for key candidates. Both of these parties are now showing some internal friction with some members fully backing Widodo for reelection while others have become disappointed with the idea that the president is considering non-party candidates such as Governor of NTB Zainul Majdi or TGB as he known, individuals such as the former Constitutional Court Chief Justice, Mahfud MD.
This internal friction inside both parties combined with less powerful influence in the regional elections have potentially made Golkar and PKB a less powerful force in Widodo’s up coming reelection campaign and this may have reduced their bargaining power in the eyes of Widodo. Rather than rely on support from these two parties for campaign groundwork, the president will likely now lean very heavily on public figures, artists, social media influencers and social media campaigns instead. The president intends to work on any internal coalition friction once he is reelected, according to individuals familiar with the issue.
By waiting until the last minute to announce his choice for the VP ticket, it provides him with more leverage as his coalition partners will have less time maneuver and negotiate once a decision has been made.
As a reminder, here is the break down who is in Widodo’s coalition:
PDIP, Golkar, PKB, Nasdem, Hanura and PPP (among several smaller new parties that have yet to obtain seats in the House and will compete in the 2019 legislative election).
Party Seats in Parliament
The percentage of party seats in parliament is as follows:
Widodo’s core coalition partners are PDIP, Nasdem and Hanura. The seats for these three parties combined equal to 28.66% seats, surpassing the 20% seat threshold requirement.
How The Internal VP Decision Process Will Likely Play Out
The president continues to narrow down his own list of potential VP candidates while PDIP Chairwoman Megawati does the same. The list is very short now. Both will eventually have to agree upon one individual some time between August 4-10, with the latter being the likely target date.
A final candidate will be chosen in the final days of the registration period and once that happens, Widodo must negotiate with his coalition parties to decide what each party will be awarded with for their support, things such as their role in a future cabinet. In the past, each of the coalition parties submitted their dream list of cabinet seats they hope to be given in return for their support. This list usually is quite extensive which will eventually be negotiated down to a handful or less cabinet seats. Parties will then have to decide if they are happy with Widodo’s offers. If not, they will renegotiate, lobby or in a worse case, leave the coalition. The exact names of who will be in the cabinet and how many technocrats will be picked will be decided later but the parties will have a good indication of how much influence they will have in a Widodo second term if he wins.
All of the negotiating must occur in a very short period, likely in a period of only a couple of days. So we will see an incredible amount of lobbying and negotiations between August 4 -10th.
Both Widodo and Prabowo will likely wait until the very last minute to announce their ticket in an effort to prevent any disappointed coalition partners in either coalition, from forming a third ticket.
Kalla Third Term as VP Is Interesting But Difficult
On July 18, 2018, the United Indonesia Party (Perindo), submitted a request for a Constitutional Court judicial review of the 2017 Election law, citing lack of clarity on whether vice president Kalla could run a VP for a third term considering his circumstances. According to the Law, a president or vice president can only run for two terms, regardless of whether they hold office for two consecutive terms. Similar judicial review requests have been thrown out by the court in the past.
Kalla was President Yudhoyono’s vice president from 2004 to 2009 and his supporters argue that some of the articles in the Election Law are not clear on whether Kalla could run for VP in 2018 as his terms were not consecutive as he served two different presidents and because this is his forth year of his second term and has yet to complete a full second term which ends in October 2019.
A previous judicial review was submitted by Kalla supporters earlier this year and the vice president was not directly involved in the request. The case easily declared as having no legal standing as these individual were not deemed to be disenfranchised by the law as they were not a political party that’s participating in next year’s elections.
The latest judicial review request by Perindo is slightly different than the previous one as Perindo is a political party and has endorsed Widodo for reelection. Unlike the previous judicial review request, Kalla this time is willing to participate and provide his input for court if the Court decides that this latest request has legal standing. This sounds like a stronger case but obstacles remain for Kalla to be come VP for a third term:
*** Although Perindo is participating in next year’s election, it is a new party established in 2015, after the 2014 elections. As a result, it holds no seats in the House and does not meet the 20% seat threshold requirement on its own to put forth a candidate. So there is a possibility that the Court could throw out the case on this point alone due to lack of legal standing.
*** Another obstacle is that only 13 days left until the registration deadline ends on August 10th. Although the Court in the past has made decisions in only a matter of days, it will be difficult to do so under the Court’s current schedule and should be focused now on an ongoing court case involving several 2018 regional election disputes. Perindo will meet the Court on July 30 to submit more documents.
*** Also, even if the Court does in fact make a surprise decision that Perdino does have a legal standing and then hears the case, the final decision by the Court would still have to come out in favor for Kalla. If the court sides in Kalla’s favor and allows him to run, the next obstacle that Kalla’s would face would be convincing President Widodo and Golkar to add him to the ticket. This would be a challenge despite the fact that PDIP Chairwoman Megawati and some senior PDIP members are strong Kalla allies. Key Golkar members are also against the idea. Again, all of these negotiations would have to happen in a matter of days if the Court sides in Kalla’s favor.
Regardless of the Court’s decision, Kalla is still someone to watch when it comes to the next presidential campaign as he has proven that he remains influential particularly behind the scenes in Indonesia politics.
The pressure is on the Court to maintain its independence and we will soon see how it all plays out.
Hosts: Shawn Corrigan
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This podcast is produced by LEXICO Indonesia, a political risk advisory base din Jakarta.