Indonesia Election 2014: Golkar, Democrats explore coalition possibility

JAKARTA - Senior Golkar and Democratic Party leaders are exploring the possibility of forming a coalition to field a presidential ticket for the July 9 election, after Golkar chairman Aburizal Bakrie called on President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono at the palace.

Their team includes Golkar deputy chairman Agung Laksono, senior party leader MS Hidayat, and Golkar secretary-general Idrus Marham, as well as Democrat ministers Jero Wacik and Syarief Hasan. Both sides will likely reach a decision only this weekend.

"We will... discuss the various possibilities," Mr Laksono, who is coordinating welfare minister, told reporters after a meeting he and Golkar ministers Hidayat and Sharif Cicip Sutardjo also attended.

The move signals Golkar and the Democratic Party, both major middle-ground parties, are still keen to put forward their own ticket in what would otherwise be a two-way race between Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle's (PDI-P) Mr Joko Widodo and ex-general Prabowo Subianto of the Gerindra Party, who both met Dr Yudhoyono on Tuesday.

The move also reflects the fluid nature of ongoing coalition-building, and comes a day after Mr Bakrie met presidential front runner Joko and said he was considering backing Mr Joko, although PDI-P leaders remain wary of overtures from Golkar, which has never been out of government.

PDI-P secretary-general Tjahjo Kumolo said the party was taking the next three days to mull over the pros and cons of having Golkar on board.

As for joining the Democrats, Mr Hidayat, who is industry minister, noted that there were still four days ahead of Golkar's national meeting on Sunday, adding: "In politics, anything is possible."

The Democratic Party is set to announce today the winner of its presidential convention, who will then be considered as a presidential or vice-presidential candidate. Front runners include state-owned enterprises minister Dahlan Iskan, former trade minister Gita Wirjawan and university rector Anies Baswedan.

Presidential and vice-presidential candidates have until Tuesday afternoon to file their nomination papers. To contest, they must be backed by parties or a group of parties with 20 per cent of the seats - or 112 seats - in the 560-member Parliament, or 25 per cent of the votes.

Golkar, which came in second in the April 9 general election, won 91 seats, while the Democrats got 61 seats, according to counts announced by the election commission yesterday.

Senior Democrat figures have suggested Golkar cadre and Yogyakarta Sultan Hamengkubuwono X could be a presidential candidate but Mr Bakrie said this did not surface during yesterday's meeting.

"We did not discuss names, we discussed how fundamentally, we had a responsibility to Indonesia going forward," he told reporters, adding that the president hoped current policies, both domestic and foreign, could be continued.

Yesterday, the National Mandate Party declared its backing for Mr Prabowo at a national party meeting, and nominated outgoing coordinating economic minister Hatta Rajasa, who had tendered his resignation a day earlier, as his running mate.

Separately, PDI-P chairman Megawati Sukarnoputri presided over the formal announcement of a coalition with the National Democratic Party and the National Awakening Party to back Mr Joko. Mindful of how other parties ditched the PDI-P in previous polls, she hoped its new partners would not break ranks. "There have been incidents: Tonight, we sign, we have a deal," she said. "The next morning, one party goes to another side. I don't want that."

This article was published on May 15 in The Straits Times.

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