Saturday, September 30, 2023

‘Familiar Situation’: Agus and Democratic Party Left Out by Coalition Partners

Heru Andriyanto
September 3, 2023 | 5:17 am
Democratic Party Chairman Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, center, speaks during a news conference in Jakarta, Aug. 11, 2023. (Antara photo)
Democratic Party Chairman Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, center, speaks during a news conference in Jakarta, Aug. 11, 2023. (Antara photo)

Jakarta. The sense of déjà vu is overwhelming inside the Democratic Party after chairman Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono again lost the opportunity to appear on the ballot as a running mate in the upcoming presidential election.

It’s the same old plot as the previous election but with different characters as the son of former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, better known as SBY, was deemed not good enough by coalition partners to run for the veep post.

Five years ago, the party had been confident that Agus would be Prabowo Subianto's running mate after Prabowo responded with a "why not?" to a journalist's question about their potential pairing.

However, the party was left fuming when Prabowo chose fellow Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) member Sandiaga Uno as his ticket mate a few days later. Tensions escalated to the point where Democratic Party executive Andi Arief alleged a payment of Rp 1 trillion behind Sandiaga's appointment.


For the upcoming election, the Democratic Party has joined a coalition supporting former Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan's presidential candidacy since February, with the belief that Agus would become the running mate.

Since then, Anies and Agus have appeared together at public events, even performing a duet on stage. However, after six months, patience wore thin, and the Democratic Party began pressuring Anies to formally announce their partnership.

This led to a series of dramatic events this past week. On August 25, Anies visited SBY at his private residence in Bogor, where they discussed "campaign strategy" for 2024. After the meeting, Anies stated that the unity of the three-party coalition was "no longer in question."

It later emerged that on the same day, Anies wrote and signed a letter requesting Agus to be his running mate. It remains unclear whether he wrote the letter at SBY's house.

Three days later, media mogul Surya Paloh, chairman of the National Democratic Party (Nasdem), which initiated the coalition, held a secret meeting with Muhaimin Iskandar, offering him the position of running mate for Anies.

The Democratic Party learned about this surprise development through a messenger two days later and on Thursday issued a scathing statement accusing Anies of dishonesty and betrayal of the existing consensus. They also published a photograph of Anies' handwritten letter to Agus.

On Friday, the Democratic Party officially withdrew from the coalition.

It's More Painful Now Than 5 Years Ago
Unlike five years ago, Agus had received a written promise to be a candidate, although ultimately he found himself in a familiar situation. 

The fact that he didn't hear about this surprise decision directly from Anies or Surya further fueled anger within the Democratic Party.

Moreover, Surya seemed to favor an outsider over Agus for his preferred nominee. Muhaimin is the chairman of the National Awakening Party (PKB) and co-founded a rival coalition nominating Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto for president.

Muhaimin grew increasingly frustrated with Prabowo's reluctance to immediately name him as a running mate, and Surya's offer came just at the right time for him.

It's worth noting that the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), the third member of Anies' coalition, did not contest Muhaimin's arrival, raising suspicions that Nasdem and PKS had discussed the decision in advance without the Democratic Party's involvement.

PKS executives did not attend the inauguration ceremony of the Anies-Muhaimin pairing in Surabaya on Saturday, citing conflicting schedules. Nevertheless, they welcomed Muhaimin and the PKB to the coalition.

Agus, 45, retired early from the Army as a major to contest the 2017 Jakarta gubernatorial election, which he lost to Anies. In March 2020, he was elected as chairman of the Democratic Party by acclamation. The party was founded by his father to serve as SBY's political platform for presidential victories in 2004 and 2009.

Five years ago, the Democratic Party half-heartedly stayed in the Prabowo coalition despite the running mate dispute because the remaining rival alliance supporting eventual winner Joko Widodo had closed the door to a new member and the law obliges all incumbent parties to have a candidate in the presidential election or they are banned from the next general elections.

The current situation still allows the Democratic Party to find a new coalition and throw support to a candidate other than Anies before all presidential candidates and their running mates are officially registered with the General Election Commission next month.

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