President Joko Widodo (Photo source : Cabinet Secretary)

JAKARTA (TheInsiderStories) – While the Indonesian Presidential Election is still two years away, political observers are saying that political parties are likely to engage in heated battles in regional elections to be held across the country next year, the results of which will determine who will be the winner of the 2019 Presidential Election.

Next year, Indonesia will hold 171 regional elections – 17 to elect governors, 115 to elect Regency Heads and 39 to elect Municipality Heads. Political parties are focusing on winning in key provinces that will pave the way for them to win the Presidential Election.

Boni Hargens, a political analyst from the University of Indonesia, told TheInsiderStories that the results of regional elections in four provinces will become the key factor to winning the 2019 General Election.

He said that major parties – the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) and the Great Indonesian Movement Party (Gerindra) are likely to work very hard to win regional elections in Central Java, West Java, East Java and North Sumatra. These are the key areas where political parties are likely to try their best to win.

The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle and the Great Indonesian Movement Party have already proposed candidates for the Central Java and West Java governors’ elections, and the parties with whom they will set up a coalition. The two parties do however have yet to pick their candidates and announce with whom they have decided to work with, in a coalition.

“The interesting thing to see is the constellation of parties in the East Java governor’s election,” he said.

The National Democratic Party of Struggle and the National Awakening Party have decided to support incumbent Governor Gus Ipul, while the National Development Party (PPP), People’s Conscience Party (Hanura), National Democratic (Nasdem) and Golkar parties are backing Khofifah Indar Parawangsa, the current Minister of Social Affairs.

“We will have to consider candidates from Gerindra, the Democratic Party, the National Mandate Party and the Justice and Prosperity Party. Gerindra party will definitely seek candidates who will support Prabowo in the 2019 Presidential Election,” he said.

In addition, the incumbent President needs to ensure that the 2018 regional elections will support him in defending moderate Islamic views and tolerant attitudes, to forestall the rise of radical and intolerant groupings that could potentially topple the secular position he maintains.

“Attacks on the government are likely to intensify in regional elections in 2018, in more than 100 provinces, districts, and municipalities. Religious, race and ethnicity issues can be wielded as weapons against pro-government parties, especially in East, West and Central Java,” he added.

Such attacks and accusations are merely desperate expressions of a deep-rooted fear of his strong push for a pluralist society, a concept completely unacceptable to fundamentalists.

Fundamentalist Muslims see President Joko Widodo as having embraced Karl Max’s socialist-communist stance, known in Europe to stand against religious rigidity. They also view it as propaganda from China’s Communist Party to brainwash people into turning their backs on religion.

The candidates appear to defy the call by President Joko Widodo and National Police Chief Tito Karnavian to compete only on programs, and not to exploit sensitive issues such as race, religion and ethnicity, sore points that could divide society and trigger social conflicts.

Political analysts call on the President to educate clerics to promote a pluralist and peaceful concept of Islam, and prevent mosques from being used by the political parties or candidates in upcoming regional elections, as happened in the Jakarta election early this year.

Meanwhile, Lukman Eddy, a politician from the National Mandate Party, estimates only 14 parties will be eligible for the 2019 presidential election. It is likely that only 7 will manage to win seats in the Parliament.

Therefore, there is a need to improve the quality and modernization of the party system in the country, instead of focusing on quantity, Eddy opined.

Burhanuddin Muhtadi, a political analyst from Indikator Politik Indonesia, mentions 16 people who have the potentiality to be nominated as alternative figures, other than Chairman Prabowo of Gerindra Party. Among them are Former DKI Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahja Purnama, popularly known as Ahok, Military Chief General Gatot Nurmantyo, Bandung Municipality Head Ridwan Kamil, Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati, Police Chief Tito Karnavian as well as Bank Indonesia Governor Agus Martowardojo.

The other question raised by some quarters of the society now is, who will be the potential candidate Vice President candidates of the incumbent President Joko Widodo. Some political observers have mentioned three potential candidates, namely Police Chief Tito Karnavian, Military Chief Gatot Nurmantyo who is also popular among Muslim societies as well as current Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati.

It may be too early to discuss potential candidates for the 2019 Presidential Election. The eyes of all the people are now on next year’s regional elections to be held across Indonesia. For political parties, winning in those four key provinces may ensure success in winning the 2019 General Elections.

Written by Yosi Winosa, email: yosi.winosa@theinsiderstories.com

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