Editorial: Ganjar an Upgrade from Jokowi, Giving Anies a Run for His Money

Editorial Omong-Omong

7 min read

Forget the premature pre-election polling, it will be a contest between former Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan and Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo in 2024.

No disrespect to Prabowo Subianto, but it will be hard-pressed for the former general to get enough votes if the three of them are entangled in a three-horse race, given the development that most of his 2019 and 2014 supporters are leaving him once he changed side to become President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s cabinet member, while supporters of ruling Indonesia Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP) will be solid to vote for Ganjar, and Jokowi’s supporters will still be divided between them.

The rise of Ganjar and his presidential nomination by PDIP as well as  Anies’ staying popularity after Surya Paloh’s Nasdem Party, Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s Democrat Party (PD) carried him as their presidential candidate in 2024 elections mean that Indonesia is pushing forward a leadership regeneration and looking into the future as both of them younger (Anies and Ganjar are both 54 ) than Jokowi (61), rather than looking back.

Both Anies and Ganjar represent Indonesia today while Prabowo (71) is a thing of the past.

It is then incomprehensible, confusing and a dangerous precedent that “the kingmaker” Jokowi as an active president has openly thrown his support behind Prabowo unless there have been deals between them that is kept away from the public. His predecessor, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, has given him example of how to be neutral during such a crucial moment.

Jokowi will still be the president when the election is held. He still holds the power at least until October 2024, and has all resources in his disposal to skew the results of the elections toward the candidate he nominates. It is a very dangerous game he is playing now.

Ganjar Proves Himself to Be A Real Deal    

Two-three months ago it seemed like Central Java governor Ganjar Pranowo’s ambition to contest in the 2024 presidential election was all but over. Many have written him off because Megawati Soekarnoputri, chairwoman of the country’s ruling Indonesia Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP) where Ganjar is a cadre, would likely to nominate her daughter, Puan Maharani.

But on Friday (April 21) Megawati Soekarnoputri, chairwoman of the ruling Indonesia Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP), publicly announced that the party nominated him as its candidate for the 2024 presidential election, ending year-long speculations and possibly weakening President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo-pushed initiative for his defense minister Prabowo Subianto to claim for presidency.

Megawati has ridiculed and scolded Ganjar several times in public as a person who doesn’t know his place for attempting to become president without a permission from her. Meanwhile, PDIP officials have sidelined him in many party’s activities, with even Central Java’s PDIP chapter head Bambang Pacul endlessly taunting him.

With no other major parties dare to gamble on him, how could he run without the backing of his own party?

But Ganjar could grind his way back into candidacy thanks to his own steel mentality, maturity and grit of never backing down, as well as several defining political moments that angered and provoked Megawati to decide to pick him.

One of the most important factors behind Ganjar’s nomination is Jokowi’s demonstrative move to become a king maker by trying to unite all major political parties supporting his administration, not named PDIP, behind Prabowo, a former rival cum closest ally.

Prabowo is Jokowi’s personal choice to replace him to become the next president, with both of them in many occasions showing how close they have been. The latest of Jokowi’s support for Prabowo was when he was jockeying the establishment of “big coalition”, uniting Great Indonesian Awakening Coalition (KKIR), comprising Prabowo’s Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) and Muhaimin Iskandar’s National Awakening Party (PKB), on one hand with the New Indonesia Coalition (KIB), comprising of Golkar, National Mandate Party (PAN) and United Development Party (PKB), on the other to back the former general to run for presidency, sidelining PDIP in the process as Megawati was still trying to find justification to appoint Puan as the party’s presidential candidate. Early this month Jokowi invited all chairmen of these parties to meet in Warung Buncit, South Jakarta, for consolidation and confirmation that they would support Prabowo.

While we have yet to find out what is the deal Prabowo has offered to Jokowi, or what Jokowi has demanded from the former general, speculations have been swirling that all projects, especially Nusantara, the planned nation’s new capital Nusantara in East Kalimantan, that Jokowi pioneered must be continued, and protection and pathway for his sons in business and politics.

This move might have angered Megawati, or at least made her wary, on a real possibility that it could end her grip on Indonesian presidency because the unification of the coalitions possessed the combined votes of almost 50 percent compare to PDIP alone which garnered around 20 percent of total votes in 2019 elections. At this point, Jokowi was like forcing Megawati’s hand as he gave her no choice but selecting Ganjar.

Another factor is the reality that her daughter Puan would never win the presidency in a million years. The two rivals, Prabowo and Anies, have been consistently in the top three in various presidential polling, while in contrast, her daughter, Puan, has failed to even crack into the top 10.

Thus, Ganjar is the only PDIP’S cadre that could compete against Prabowo and Anies at least according to surveys. Realizing this factor, Megawati could have come to her senses that it’s impossible for PDIP to keep its grip on presidency if she keeps pushing for Puan’s presidential nomination.

But the final strike that made up Megawati’s mind to pick Ganjar was the Central Java governor’s willingness to bite the bullet to show his loyalty to Megawati and the party by publicly standing by his party chairwoman’s seemingly firm decision for Indonesia not hosting the Under-20 FIFA World Cup because of Israel’s participation in the tournament.

Ganjar cleverly echoed PDIP’s sentiment against Israel, underlying the stance of Indonesian first president Soekarno, Megawati’s father, of his consistently supporting the independence of the Palestine since the very beginning as if the Central Java governor knew that mentioning Soekarno would be emotionally felt by Megawati.

Such a public statement was a calculated and brilliant move because not only it reminded Indonesians of Soekarno’s greatness and nobility but also pointing to the fact that Ganjar was the first politician in recent years who connected Soekarno with the Palestinians when it was Islamic parties that usually claimed the credit. As a proud daughter, Megawati was likely feeling this.

But passing this test is not without a high cost. Ganjar on social media must face months of intensive bullying from the country’s hardcore football fans, many of whom were actually Ganjar’s supporters. These fans, possibly millions of them, are thirsty for world-class tournament and football achievements and understandably deeply disappointed that Indonesia failed to host a world cup and thus participate in such a world-level tournament.

With his position against hosting Israel Ganjar also decided to break rank with Jokowi, whom he was actually close but he knew prefer Prabowo than him. Jokowi really wanted to host the tournament as he aimed at doing something big in football before ending his presidency in 2024. This means that he can no longer hope supports from Jokowi’s core supporters, who do not necessarily vote for PDIP.

The double negative impacts from football fans and Jokowi’s supporters were real in hitting his electability as subsequent surveys found him losing supports, trailing behind Prabowo while still above Anies.

But it should not matter now because after PDIP’s nomination he could expect his electability rises again, with more PDIP’s supporters likely willing to vote for him now, while he surely hopes that this football debacle – usually like any other issues in Indonesia — will soon be forgotten.

But Ganjar’s nomination has possibly made Jokowi and Prabowo nervous because previously they have written Ganjar off, and there has been a plan to pair Prabowo with Ganjar, with the former as the presidential candidate.

So, Who Votes Who?

The 2024 presidential elections will not be won outright in one round as none of the three pairs of candidates will gather above 50 percent of votes.

There is no doubt that Anies will depend on Muslim voters to win the presidency just like when he won the 2017 Jakarta gubernatorial election, defeating the highly popular and Jokowi’s protégé, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama. However, as Prabowo’s 2014 and 2019 failed attempts have shown, using sectarian sentiment alone would not be enough. Anies needs additional votes from the center, and in this case, Nasdem Party and Democrat Party will fill the void. Also, his popularity among housewives and young voters will add to his vote tallies. But he will compete with Ganjar in getting votes from young voters. In any cases, his votes will be enough to take him to the second round.

Meanwhile, Ganjar will be supported by most, if not all, PDIP’s supporters – around 20 percent of total votes – plus some who previously voted for Jokowi as well as many young voters. He will manage to secure his place in the second round.

Prabowo, meanwhile, will lose most of his Muslim supporters to Anies and won’t be able to recoup enough voters Jokowi had garnered in the last two elections. Like it or not, Prabowo’s ability to closely compete against Jokowi in 2014 and 2019 elections is because he is seen as the one who can defend Islam, with PKS being able to rally conservative Muslim voters to vote for him. Now, he loses most of it. It depends on whether those who voted for Jokowi will vote for him even if Jokowi openly nominates him because he will compete with Ganjar in this regard. This is a big question mark for him.

Anies or Ganjar Will Be an Upgrade from Jokowi

If Anies will have to face Ganjar in the second round then it will be 2014 and 2019 rivalry all over again. Yes, it’s true in the sense that those who voted for Jokow will tend to support Ganjar while those who support Prabowo generally will rally behind Anies.

But it will be a different ball game.

First, now Indonesians are better prepared as they are learning from the 2014 and 2019 presidential election as well as 2017 Jakarta election experiences. If Indonesians were able to cope with the worst in the form of heated division in the last two elections without major open conflicts then they will be able to handle the 2014 elections peacefully.

Secondly, both Anies and Ganjar should aware by that exploiting sectarian politics will have its repercussions. It’s a risky business that can otherwise harm their chance of winning the presidency.

Whoever wins the presidency, Anies or Ganjar, Indonesia will likely to be better. At least, they will not defer responsibilities and policy making to others because of incomprehensibility and indifference. Or, that someone else will take over the administration because the president thinks he knows better and is smarter and more experience than himself.

Anies has shown that he could be independent from pressure from the conservative groups that support him. In his five years in office, there have been no reports about religious violence and discrimination as have been feared and exaggerated by his detractors. He will be able to stand his own against Surya Paloh or Yudhoyono as well as the Islamists at the PKS.

After all, he is a direct beneficiary of Nurcholis Madjid, one of the country’s biggest Muslim reformists and moderate thinkers.

Ganjar, meanwhile, is a true politician in and out.

Those who are following her blossoming since becoming a PDIP lawmaker in Senayan, 15 years ago know how smart he is. He is a flamboyant talker in the level of Anies, and journalists love to talk to him.

Those who quickly fall into believing that he will be a mere petugas partai (party’s official) just like Jokowi will be surprised. If there is one thing to learn from Indonesian politics in the last several months is that we should never underestimate, let alone, count Ganjar out.

Editorial Omong-Omong

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