President Joko Widodo engages in light discussion with the Head of Gerindra Party Prabowo Subianto at State Palace last year - Photo by President Office.

JAKARTA (TheInsiderStories) – There is no doubt that 2018 is quickly turning into a ‘political year’. As many as 171 regional elections – for provincial governors and regency heads – will be held throughout the year; the result of these could lay out a clearer landscape defining political mapping ahead of the Presidential Election in 2019.

Looking at the preparations for political parties’ regional elections, there are clearly four political playmakers remaining in the current Indonesian political running, namely, Megawati Soekarnoputri, former Indonesian President and the Head of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP), Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, former President and the Head of Democratic Party (PD), Prabowo Subianto, former candidate in two previous presidential elections and chairman of the Gerindra Party, and Joko Widodo, the incumbent President.

These four current political players seem to play a pivotal role in determining who will win the 2019 presidential election. In addition, 14 political parties have been declared eligible to take part in the 2019 general election, as announced by the General Election Commission last week.

General election will be held in Indonesia on April, 17, 2019. For the first time, the President and members of People’s Consultative Assembly will be elected on the same day.

The campaign period is tentatively scheduled to take place from Oct. 18, 2018 to April, 13, 2019. Determination of political parties eligible to participate in the election is due to be announced on 1 March 2018.

Based on a number of political surveys and polls, there two strongest presidential candidates that are likely to run for the 2019 presidential election, namely, the incumbent Joko Widodo and Prabowo Subianto.

A number of political parties, such as National Democratic Party (Nasdem) and Golkar Party, have openly declared that they will support Joko Widodo in the upcoming presidential election. The current government-backed political parties have also sent indications that they will support Joko Widodo as their president candidate in the next presidential election.

Prabowo Subianto certainly remains a strong contender. The triumph of the pair of Anies Baswedan-Sandiaga Uno in last year’s gubernatorial election has boosted his confidence and given him extra energy to run for President a third time. He is expected to seek support from the Jakarta governor and vice governor, in support of his campaign.

The recent verdict of the Constitutional Court of a threshold for parties that can propose a presidential candidate will also limit the number of presidential candidates. Based on the court’s verdict, any party intending to put up a presidential candidate must be holding a minimum 20 per cent of the seats in the current Parliament. This implies that no single party can propose a presidential candidate. All parties are thus required to enter into a coalition to propose a presidential candidate; therefore, the current composition of seats can work to determine a coalition.

The majority of seats in the House of Representatives (DPR) is held by PDIP, with 19.4 per cent. The second-largest seat holder is Golkar Party, with 19.4 per cent, Gerindra with 13 per cent, Democratic Party 10.9 per cent, PAN 8.6 per cent, PKB 8.4 per cent, PKS 7.1 per cent, PPP 7 per cent, Nasdem 6.4 per cent and Hanura 2.9 per cent.

Based on the existing distribution of seats in the Parliament, the parties that are supporting the Joko Widodo government – PDIP, Golkar, Nasdem, National Awakening Party (PKB), United Development Party (PPP), Hanura and PAN have a combined total of 68.9 per cent of seats.

A key point is that not all current pro-government parties will maintain their commitment in the upcoming presidential election. Certain parties could change their loyalty. PAN, for instance, has stated that it has yet to make any final decision, signaling that it may decide not to support Joko Widodo in the upcoming presidential election.

Meanwhile, the parties that are likely to support Prabowo as presidential candidate are Gerindra and the Social Justice Party (PKS) with a combined parliamentary holding of 20.1 per cent. Recent movements of some political elites in PAN showed that the Party might shift to another coalition.

Although Widodo and Prabowo are the two front-runners, there is still the possibility of the rise of a third presidential candidate. Certain political parties, such as the Democratic Party, under the leadership of former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, could form a third axis to propose an alternative presidential candidate. Such a possibility remains to be seen.

A recent survey by Saiful Mujani Research Consulting (SMRC) also shows that the Joko Widodo chances of being elected are is still ahead of those of other potential candidates, such as Prabowo Subianto, Anies Baswedan, Hary Tanoe or Gatot Nurmantyo. Its latest survey early this month placed Joko Widodo’s electability at 53.8 per cent, while Prabowo Subianto only marked 18.5 per cent, said SMRC President Director Djayadi Hanan, as quoted by local media.

What is clear is that the political landscape from now until the presidential election could still see a major shift, marked by a looming threat to national security, something that the government and business players need to monitor.

According to the Director of Indonesia Survey Agency (LSI) Dodi Ambardi, the current political situation will be centered around two blocs – those of Joko Widodo and Prabowo Subianto. Tension between the two blocs could intensify during the regional election period and extend until the presidential election phase early next year, which could pose a threat to national cohesion.

However, Mohamad Sobari, a political observer, said that despite intense political competition, Indonesian society is becoming more mature in general, in regard to political leaders. This was clearly seen in last year’s Jakarta gubernatorial election. Some sections of the society might try to provoke others with race or religious issues; however, the general public responded with a more cautious, matured appraisal.

Although the political tension in Jakarta’s gubernatorial election last year was under control, there is no guarantee that there will be no political and security upheavals in the upcoming regional elections. Therefore, there is a need for the government to take steps to mitigate unrest and social disintegration because democracy has its limits. These include limiting provocations in social media and suppressing any ‘hoax’ news that could spark social unrest.   (*)