E14: Golkar, Widodo And The VP Seat

+ With just 30 days to go before qualified parties must register their presidential candidates, Jokowi’s key coalition member, the Golkar Party, has become divided on whether to fully back the president for a second term after the president eyes other candidates besides Golkar chairman, Airlangga Hartarto. The General Election Commission (KPU) has set its registration period 4-10 August 2018. 

+ Throughout the year, most political observers, along with many Golkar cadre, have repeated the same pitch: Airlangga is Jokowi’s most likely vice presidential candidate for his second term. The argument has been that Airlangga is the chairman of Indonesia’s second largest party, close to Jokowi, is a technocrat and business tycoon. Golkar could use its well-established political machine to support Jokowi, Airlangga could contribute to the needed campaign funding and be accepted by the business community. This all makes sense on the surface, however Indonesia politics is never what appears on the surface and is never straightforward. 

+ Airlangga and Jokowi have been extremely close since Airlangga was appointed as industry minister in mid 2016 and even closer since he was chosen as the new chairman of Golkar in late 2017. The two spent an enormous time together and take every opportunity to be seen together by the media.

Issues Being Considered

+ Despite what might be ideal for Golkar and Jokowi, there are other factors that need to be considered and key issues besides what’s found on the surface when it comes to Jokowi's VP decision:

--- Megawati and many PDIP seniors dislike the idea of having a young chairman of a rival party as VP candidate, especially one that is not a close confidant of Megawati (as Jusuf Kalla is). Such a candidate would be in prime position in 2024 to take over the reins after Jokowi's second term at the expense of PDIP (and Mega’s family).

--- Jokowi's religious credentials were tested in the 2014 campaign and during his first term. Some of his supporters believe that he needs to balance his nationalist credentials with a moderate Islamic VP and this remains a possibility as of today. As a result, the president continues to review potential candidates, including Airlangga. 

Golkar’s Reaction

+ Golkar has worked hard to support Jokowi ever since the party jumped from the opposition to the government coalition in mid 2016 and in some instances, has made some sacrifices for the president along the way.

+ Some in Golkar are questioning whether Jokowi deserves their full support if the party is not rewarded with the VP seat.

+ As a result of all these factors, senior Golkar cadre are frantically lobbying other coalition parties to build pressure on Jokowi to chose Airlangga as VP. The party is also in discussions with other parties exploring other potential options inside and outside of the government coalition if there are signs that Jokowi will choose a VP candidate other than Airlangga.

+ Despite claims by party officials that Golkar remains solidly behind Jokowi for 2019, their actions speak differently as they have recently begun intensive lobbying with only 30 days until parties must register their candidates. Senior Golkar members are calling for all internal factions to remain unified and continue to back Jokowi.

+ Golkar could potentially continue to support Widodo for a second term but some question whether the party will remain united or if it will use its political machine for full effect if Airlangga is not the VP.

+ It appears that Golkar is maneuvering to be prepared for the worse case situation and looking at all options but it remains unclear today which direction they will ultimately go.

+ Golkar’s maneuvers and internal friction has caught the attention of parties in both coalitions and could potentially impact the political dynamics. 

+ Jusuf Kalla remains a key actor in the Golkar negotiations and decisions he makes could drastically change the political landscape. He has and likely will continue to play an important role in the 2019 elections despite the recent Constitutional Court decision that prevents Kalla running for VP for a third time. 

+ To be clear, Airlangga remains a potential contender for the VP seat but his appointment by Jokowi is by no means certain and Golkar does not want to be caught off guard. Golkar’s maneuvering could create a new opportunities/problems among other parties. 

+ Negotiations among members of the government coalition are now happing at a frantic rate and this is expected to continue until 10 August.

+ Jokowi and his PDIP government coalition would continue to meet the 2019 KPU presidential requirements even if the Golkar party indeed pledges its support elsewhere in a worse case scenario.