Indonesia’s Jokowi Takes Control of Parliament

Indonesia’s April 17 general election has delivered a strong coalition in unofficial tallies giving President Joko Widodo control of Parliament, with the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, or PDI-P, the party he represents, emerging as the biggest of nine parties occupying the lower house.

The so-called “quick count” was made by 10 reliable survey institutions and gave Jokowi, as the president is known, and his running mate Ma’ruf Amin 54.44 percent of the vote while his opponent, former general Prabowo Subianto, took 45.65 percent. Total participation in the 2019 election was put at 80.9 percent, an increase from only 70 percent in 2014. The General Election Commission (KPU) will announce the official recapitulation results on May 22.

Prabowo, however, proclaimed himself the winner and said he would become president, a proclamation ignored by most of Indonesia given the substantial lead amassed by Jokowi. The so-called “212 movement” which was instrumental in getting rid of Jakarta’s Christian governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama in 2017, has called for a massive rally in the center of Jakarta for tomorrow to protest the election.

Nonetheless, at 67 and with five years to go before the next presidential election, Prabowo is probably finished as a major political candidate. That can’t be said for his running mate, Sandiaga Uno, a former investment banker and one of Indonesia’s richest men. He is said to have helped to engineer Basuki’s ouster, a Jokowi ally who was jailed on trumped-up blasphemy charges after being defeated by Anies Baswedan. Uno is expected to stay in politics and may turn up as the presidential contender in 2024.

Following his victory in 2014, Jokowi faced a parliament controlled by allies of Prabowo’s Gerindra Party, which severely impaired his room for maneuver until he later managed to pull Golkar and the Muslim United Development Party away from Gerindra and onto his side. Parties in his coalition now control 53.18 percent of the seats in parliament, a figure that should rise as Jokowi consolidates his power deeper into his second term. Political parties’ loyalty, governed by their ability to get at the pork barrel, is malleable at best in Indonesia.

Prabowo’s Gerindra Party did pull the second-biggest number of votes, at 12.82 percent of the vote. Golkar, which supported Jokowi, has dominated Indonesian politics since the party was established by the late strongman Suharto, but slipped to third for the first time, with 11.71 percent of the vote. The Democratic Party, headed by former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, won only 8.09 percent. With his wife seriously ill in a Singapore hospital, and with Prabowo having spurned his son, Agus, as a vice presidential candidate, SBY, as the former president is known, hardly bothered to join the campaign.

The much-feared Islamic vote, which Prabowo tied himself to, appears not to have materialized as voters instead opted for moderates. The Prosperous Justice Party, which aligned with Prabowo, pulled 8.56 of the vote. The general’s appeal to Islamic hardliners, if anything, brought out moderates, especially those aligned with Ma’ruf, and ethnic and religious minorities unsettled by the hardliners’ intolerance.

Some new parties such as Berkarya Party led by Tommy Suharto, Suharto’s son, and the Indonesian Solidarity Party (PSI) did not pass to the parliament by only gaining votes of 2.11 percent and 2.03 percent respectively.

Jokowi is expected to set the same course that characterized his first term – infrastructure development, moderate nationalism, protection of Indonesia’s sovereignty, particularly its marine sovereignty, and seeking to lure Japanese and Chinese investment for high-speed rail, highways, airports, dams and technological connectivity.

To reformers, he has proven to be somewhat of a disappointment, considering his stint as mayor of Solo, a Javanese city where he was extremely popular, and as governor of Jakarta, where he revolutionized government. But political analysts say he hasn’t shown the same zeal, either in attempting to root out corruption, or to modernize and streamline Indonesia’s cumbersome bureaucracy. In particular, some are watching for him to unleash reformers like Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati to clean up the country’s deeply corrupt financial industry. That may be a forlorn hope.

On Wednesday night, Prabowo – significantly not accompanied by Sandiaga Uno – announced to supporters and journalists that he had won 62 percent of votes according to his campaign’s internal data. After the announcement, Prabowo performed sujud syuku (prostration of thanks), an expression that is often shown by Muslims when they receive a great gift from God.

He asked his supporters to maintain peace and not easily be provoked. "I will be and I am already the president of the Indonesian people," he said, adding that he didn’t believe in the results of surveys of other institutions.

“I would like to emphasize certain pollsters have been partisan; they were trying to sway public opinion as if we had already lost," Prabowo said.

In 2014, Prabowo also claimed to have won a battle based on a quick count issued by four survey institutions - whose credibility was doubtful - and also performed the prostration of gratitude. At that time, several credible survey institutions also issued a quick count which stated that Jokowi and his then-partner Jusuf Kalla had received 52 percent against Prabowo’s 47 percent. The official tallies nearly matched that. Prabowo sued in the Constitutional Court, vainly accusing the election commission of having committed structured, systematic and massive fraud.

Charta Politika's research manager, Ahmad Baihaqi said Jokowi’s team had won16 provinces, while Prabowo won in 18. However, Jokowi excelled in provinces with huge numbers of voters, including Central Java, Yogyakarta, and East Java.

Java Island is often referred to as the real battlefield for presidential candidates because nearly 60 percent of the national population is on this island. Central Java is the basis for PDIP supporters, while East Java is the base of the "santri" group, the term for members of the largest Muslim organization Nahdlatul Ulama (NU). The survey predicted that the majority of NU members chose Jokowi-Ma'ruf. Jokowi’s campaign was also superior in most areas of eastern Indonesia, which in recent years has made progress in infrastructure development.