Joko races to secure coalition partners

Jakarta governor and presidential candidate from PDI-P party, Joko Widodo, shows his ballot paper during voting in the parliamentary elections in Jakarta.

JAKARTA - Presidential hopeful Joko Widodo is racing to secure coalition partners, calling on the leaders of three political parties just three days after his Indonesian Democratic Party- Struggle (PDI-P) won the April 9 general election by a lower margin than expected.

"We are moving quickly to get certainty," Mr Joko, popularly known as Jokowi, said yesterday.

His first stop was the National Democratic (NasDem) Party of media mogul Surya Paloh. His support made Mr Joko the first candidate to get the numbers he needs for the July presidential elections.

Parties or a group of parties need at least 112 of the 560 seats in Parliament to field a presidential pairing.

Although final parliamentary election results will not be out until next month, the PDI-P and Nas- Dem's combined seat count would be enough.

Yesterday's political manoeuvres aimed to consolidate Mr Joko's candidacy, after early poll results based on quick counts revealed the so-called "Jokowi effect" did not deliver an expected landslide win.

After his hour-long meeting with Mr Surya, Mr Joko said both wanted to "revive the spirit of the presidential system in the future government". This means a president who is able to act decisively in the national interest and not be overly tied to parliament's wishes.

Later, Mr Joko made a 50-minute stop at Golkar's West Jakarta headquarters. While he did not secure a coalition partnership there, Golkar chairman and presidential aspirant Aburizal Bakrie said each party would nominate their own presidential candidate but would support the eventual winner and work for a strong government.

By late afternoon, Mr Joko was back in central Jakarta at the National Awakening Party (PKB) headquarters to meet its chairman, manpower minister Muhaimin Iskandar. The meeting did not result in any immediate decision on a coalition between the two parties.

The PKB said it would consult its senior cadres and other council members first.

After that, Mr Joko said he would visit Hamzah Haz, a senior member of the United Development Party.

Yesterday's movements followed Mr Joko's first visit to a new base for party supporters in South Jakarta on Friday to spur them on, after a campaign weakened by party infighting and miscommunication failed to associate Mr Joko enough with the PDI-P and deliver a stronger vote share for it.

"After the announcement of (my) presidential candidacy, there should have been intensive marketing over the next days," he was quoted as saying on BeritaSatu.

"However, it was only done during the last three days.

"When we checked reports in the field, many people said they did not know that the PDI-P nominated Jokowi (for the presidency)."

The PDI-P's 19 per cent of the vote share was seen as disappointing for a party tipped by many to take at least 25 per cent, based on polls and public euphoria for the reformist Jakarta governor who has been in office for only 18 months.

Golkar came in second with 15 per cent, followed by former general Prabowo Subianto's Gerindra party with 12 per cent, the ruling Democrats with 10 per cent, and the PKB with 9 per cent, according to pollster Saiful Mujani-LSI.

NasDem, contesting its first election, was ranked ninth out of 12 parties with 6.7 per cent, but its seat share will comfortably take the PDI-P past the threshold.

While Mr Joko has said he is not keen on power-sharing by distributing ministerial posts among coalition partners, this scenario may become a real possibility for the PDI-P, resulting in an unwieldy ruling coalition.

The next key decision will be a running mate for Mr Joko. Possibilities include former vice-president Jusuf Kalla, coordinating economics minister and leader of the Islamic National Mandate Party Hatta Rajasa, and the PKB's Mr Muhaimin.

This article was published on April 13 in The Straits Times.Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to for more stories.