The Power Players Behind Indonesia's Presidential Candidates i

Prabowo Subianto, right, raises his hand in addressing supporters during a campaign rally in Yogyakarta on March 29, 2014. (EPA Photo/Bimo Satrio)

By : Erwida Maulia | on 10:32 PM May 29, 2014
Category : News, Politics, Featured

Prabowo Subianto, right, raises his hand in addressing supporters during a campaign rally in Yogyakarta on March 29, 2014. (EPA Photo/Bimo Satrio) Prabowo Subianto at a campaign rally in Yogyakarta on March 29, 2014. (EPA Photo/Bimo Satrio)

Jakarta. Two tickets running in Indonesia’s upcoming presidential election revealed the major compositions of their respective campaign teams last week; one is filled with a vast rank of veteran politicians plus retired Army generals, while the other is likely gathering an army of young intellectuals.

The bulky team of Prabowo Subianto-Hatta Rajasa consists not just functionaries and veteran members of five political parties in the coalition led by the Great Indonesia Movement party (Gerindra), but way beyond that — including former hopefuls ditched by the rival bloc and some top names rarely mentioned in Indonesia’s political arena over the past few years, until they suddenly appeared on the campaign team’s list.

Former Constitutional Court chief justice Mahfud MD, for example, has agreed to head the executive board of the Prabowo-Hatta team, after the National Awakening Party (PKB), which he has been affiliated with, decided that former vice president Jusuf Kalla would make a better running mate to Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo, the presidential candidate of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) coalition.

“I hereby declare the start of my fight alongside the Prabowo-Hatta pair by heading the national team to support their win,” Mahfud announced in Jakarta last week.

Former Army chief of staff George Toisutta has been appointed one of Mahfud’s deputies, as have each of the parties’ secretaries general. Meanwhile, Gerindra deputy chairman Fadli Zon, often considered his party’s major strategist after its founder Prabowo, is the team’s secretary.

Dangdut king Rhoma Irama, another disappointed former presidential/vice presidential hopeful of the PKB, is now enlisted as a member of the board of advisers in the Prabowo-Hatta team after also swiftly changing his allegiance.

The board consists of not only senior patrons of all five party members in the coalition, such as Amien Rais of the National Mandate Party (PAN), Akbar Tanjung of Golkar, and Prabowo’s brother Hashim Djojohadikusumo, but also a number of retired military generals, including former Indonesian Military (TNI) commander Gen. (ret.) Djoko Santoso, Gen. (ret.) Farouk Muhammad Syechbubakar, Lt. Gen. (ret.) Syamsir Siregar and Lt. (Gen.) Syarwan Hamid.

The military-laced composition came as no surprise, given Prabowo’s former role as chief of Kopassus, the Army’s special forces. Mahfud even likened the team’s campaign strategy to that of a war.

“Like war, there will be ground attacks and airstrikes,” Mahfud said over the weekend.

A “ground attack” would be equivalent to wooing voters directly through open campaigns in public places, while “airstrikes” will come in the form of advertising and media exposure, he explained.

Media mogul Hary Tanoesoedibjo, who recently relinquished his membership of the People’s Conscience Party (Hanura) — a member of the PDI-P-led alliance — has found himself a new position on Prabowo-Hatta’s board of experts, along with economist Didik J. Rachbini, professors of politics Ryaas Rasyid and Bahtiar Effendy, and former National Police deputy chief Adang Darajatun.

Several senior politicians with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party also appeared on the Prabowo-Hatta team roster despite the Democrats’ official decision against joining either of the rival coalitions and thus abstaining from participating in the July 9 presidential election. Among these are House of Representatives (DPR) speaker Marzuki Alie and former state administrative minister Taufiq Effendi.

Prominent businessman Sandiaga Uno, meanwhile, has made the cut as the coalition’s spokesperson and public campaigner, along with former actresses Desy Ratnasari and Nurul Arifin.

The sheer size of the Prabowo-Hatta campaign team makes it difficult to determine the direction in which the coalition is heading, aside from the overall nationalist-religious platform attributable to the presence of three Islamic parties in its midst, namely PAN, the United Development Party (PPP) and the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), according to Ikrar Nusa Bhakti, a political analyst with the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI).

“This is a pragmatic coalition. Its size, the number of people and the kinds of people involved make it difficult to determine where they’re heading [with their campaign strategy],” he said.

Their political ambiguity is unlike the rival PDI-P-led coalition, which can easily be identified as nationalist-marhaenist (an Indonesian form of socialism), Ikrar said.

“This coalition is filled with academics and intellectuals who similarly adopt the nationalist-marhaenist ideology,” he said.

In addition to the prominent politicians from each of the coalition’s parties, which includes the PKB, Hanura and the National Democrats (Nasdem), Joko-Kalla chose to enlist the support of a number of rising, young intellectuals to make up the core members of their campaign team — a noticeably smaller grouping than the one formed by the opposing ticket.

Among the oft-mentioned names in the Joko-Kalla side is Andi Widjajanto, a defense and foreign policy expert from the University of Indonesia (UI).

Arbi Sanit, a fellow lecturer and political analyst with the UI, believes Andi is contributing a significant amount to compose a campaign platform for the Joko-Kalla ticket, especially but not limited to the issues of defense, security and foreign policy.

“If they win, he might as well become their defense minister. That’s his area of expertise,” Arbi told the Jakarta Globe.

Andi, according to the campaign roster obtained by media, stands as a principal member of the so-called Election Campaign Body, a main unit in the team, along with Puan Maharani, daughter of PDI-P chairwoman Megawati Sukarnoputri, as well as secretaries general of the PKB, Hanura and the National Democrats (Nasdem).

His top position comes despite his previously unknown affiliation with any political party.

However, the promising UI lecturer is not the only up-and-coming academic recruited by the Joko-Kalla ticket. Paramadina University rector Anies Baswedan, Center for Strategic and International Studies executive director Rizal Sukma, Soegeng Sarjadi Syndicate founder Sukarni Rinakit and progressive Islamic scholar Musdah Mulia, to name a few, have also joined the popular pair’s bid.

Anies said he was invited to join the campaign team by both Joko and Kalla themselves, before deciding to accept the invitation because he wanted a new face to rule the country.

“What Indonesia needs right now is a new face who can alter [the atmosphere] of the country’s politics,” Anies told Gatra magazine. “Jokowi is that new face. And although he pairs with a senior figure, both of them offer a larger potential for new [changes] and breakthroughs.”

Indra J. Piliang, head of Golkar Party’s research and development division, last week said he was also looking to join the Joko-Kalla campaign wagon, along with other young members of Golkar who have publicly disagreed with chairman Aburizal Bakrie’s last-minute decision to join the Gerindra-led bloc.

“Once I get in [the Joko-Hatta campaign], I want to offer my input to team, add a few details to the campaign manifesto, including in the field of regional administrations and local politics,” said Indra, also a former political and social researcher with the think tank CSIS.

“The younger Golkar members who support the Joko-Kalla ticket, will also mobilize crowds in our respective region to support their campaign,” he added.

Bantarto, a political observer from the Indonesia Defense University, said while it was easy to see how academics and young intellectuals contributed to the campaign strategy and main platform of the Joko-Kalla ticket, the same had not been seen with the opposing side.

“I think Prabowo himself is the creator of his coalition, directing the strategy and manifesto,” Bantarto said. “Hatta’s 10-year term in the current cabinet will help him gain access to a wide expanse of government agencies.”

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