Prabowo′s coalition could ′undermine′ a Jokowi presidency | Asia| An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 16.07.2014
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Prabowo's coalition could 'undermine' a Jokowi presidency

If he can make his seven-party coalition a permanent one in Indonesia's next parliament, presidential candidate Prabowo could undermine the effectiveness of a Jokowi-led minority government, Donald Emmerson tells DW.

The so-called Merah-Putih coalition proclaimed in Jakarta on July 14 would have the majority in the next parliament, provided the agreement holds until after the announcement of the elections results next week. The decision comes after millions of Indonesians took to the polls on July 9 to elect a new president. Unofficial quick-count results of the tight presidential poll show Jakarta governor Joko "Jokowi" Widodo ahead of his rival, ex-general Prabowo Subianto. But both candidates have claimed victory, raising concerns of a political deadlock.

Donald K. Emmerson, head of the Southeast Asia Forum at Stanford University, says in a DW interview that if Prabowo's majority coalition were to remain intact in the legislature in opposition to a Jokowi-led minority government, the effectiveness of Jokowi's reformist leadership including his ability to curb corruption could be seriously undermined.

DW: How would you describe the current political situation in Indonesia as both candidates have claimed victory following the July 9 presidential poll?

Donald K. Emmerson: We are approaching a critical juncture in the short history of democracy in Indonesia. Indonesia faces the intersection of two controversial questions. The first is: Who will be the next president, Prabowo or Jokowi?

Donald K. Emmerson, PhD, Senior Fellow at FSI, Stanford University. Copyright: Stanford University.

Emmerson: "We are approaching a critical juncture in the short history of democracy in Indonesia"

A Jokowi presidency is looking more likely. The longer Prabowo refuses to acknowledge his loss, the longer the present uncertainty will last. That said, however, opposition to Prabowo's refusal to accept defeat is mounting, even inside his own coalition.

If Jokowi is confirmed as having won the election, the second question will arise: Despite losing the presidency, will Prabowo be able to keep his coalition together in opposition to a new government headed by Jokowi?

Indonesian presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto has made his seven-party coalition a permanent one in the country's next parliament. What impact is this large coalition likely to have on the new government?

Legislative elections earlier this year gave a large majority of the seats to Prabowo's coalition. If that majority coalition were to remain intact in the legislature in opposition to a Jokowi-led minority government, the effectiveness of Jokowi's reformist leadership including his ability to curb corruption could be seriously undermined.

There are reports, however, about rival party members willing to switch sides if Jokowi wins the poll. What do you make of this?

The largest party in Prabowo's camp as of now is Golkar. But some in Golkar have proposed that the party switch sides and join what would be Jokowi's ruling coalition. If Golkar as an organization were to switch sides, or if a large enough number of individual Golkar legislators were to defect to Jokowi, he could gain the legislative majority that he now lacks. Jokowi has said that, as president, he would welcome support from Golkar, but not in return for guarantees of cabinet and other high posts in his administration.

To which extent would a Jokowi presidency benefit from Golkar support?

Jokowi's candidacy has been based almost entirely on his commitment to good governance. Because Golkar's record in ruling coalitions has been tainted by corruption and opposition to reform, a decision by the party to join Jokowi's camp could amount to a poisoned gift.

Further complications arise from the fact that Jokowi's running mate and would-be vice-president in a Jokowi administration has long been associated with Golkar, and from Prabowo's ability to use his considerable financial assets to prevent defections from his ranks.

What would further difficulties in the electoral process mean for Indonesia's young democracy?

At stake are significant questions about the political future of the world's fourth most populous country: Will Indonesia's 2014 elections engender better governance?

Prabowo Subianto, presidential candidate from the Great Indonesia Movement (Gerindra) Party, shouts slogans to supporters during a campaign rally at a stadium in Jakarta March 23, 2014.

Legislative elections earlier this year gave a large majority of the seats to Prabowo's coalition, says Emmerson

Will they, instead, prolong the country's reputation for economic inequality, elite impunity, venal politics, persisting poverty, and inferior public services such as education and health? Or will they foster an inconclusive zig-zag path between these two extremes?

The priorities for Indonesians now are to create a mandate, avoid a deadlock, and thus to empower a clean, effective, and reform-focused administration.

Indonesia expert Dr. Donald K. Emmerson heads the Southeast Asia Forum at Stanford University, where he is also affiliated with the Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies, the Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law, and the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies.

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