Indonesia: Nasdem, PKS agree to become more critical of Jokowi administration

  • As political parties are getting ready to seek new presidential candidates for the 2024 general election, the Nasdem Party, a government ally, has agreed to work with the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), the only party that has declared itself in opposition to President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s administration.
  • Gaining more votes in the Apr 19 legislative election than five years ago, the party, which is led by media mogul Surya Paloh, has found itself at odds with the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), the legislature race winner, ever since the leader of the ruling coalition decided to open a way for the Gerindra Party, formerly a major opposition party, to enter the government coalition.
  • Nasdem still secured three Cabinet posts in the newly installed Jokowi administration, but that will not stop the party from communicating with PKS.
  • Surya met with PKS chairman Sohibul Iman on 30 Oct 19 at the PKS’ headquarters in the TB Simatupang area in South Jakarta. During a closed-door meeting, the two party leaders agreed to further cooperation and opened the opportunity to form a coalition in the future, despite the current differences.
  • Surya said after the meeting that the NasDem Party would still be a government supporter. However, he said that would not mean it would not criticize the Jokowi-Ma’ruf Amin administration, explaining that a healthy democracy needed checks and balances.
  • Currently, the ruling coalition — including PDI-P, Nasdem and Gerindra — consists of six out of the nine political parties in the House, controlling about 80% of the seats in the legislature.
  • Political observers earlier warned about the dangers of there being no voices critical of government policies in the House.
  • Although they are agreed to be critical of the government, Sohibul said both parties had not yet specifically agreed on when their cooperation would start, whether in the 2020 regional elections or the 2024 races.
  • The apparent tension between NasDem and the PDI-P began in late Jul 19 when PDI-P leader Megawati Soekarnoputri met with Prabowo, apparently as a reconciliation gesture after he lost the 2019 presidential election to Jokowi.
  • The next day, Surya met with Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan, whom many see as a political opponent of Jokowi’s, and whom PKS had supported as a presidential candidate. He reportedly told Anies during the meeting that Nasdem might back the Jakarta governor should he run in the 2024 presidential election.
  • During a House of Representatives swearing-in ceremony at the beginning of Oct 19, Megawati was seen snubbing Surya.
  • PDI-P deputy-secretary Arief Wibowo criticized Nasdem’s move to get closer to PKS, saying that members of the ruling coalition should not take two sides — as an ally and in opposition.
  • “We ask all coalition parties to obey the principle, to maintain ethical attitudes as a member of the government coalition. Thus, two-faced politics should be avoided by each of us in the coalition,” he said.
  • Surya defended his move to cooperate with PKS on 31 Oct 19. He said during a luncheon that “opening communications is a good way to resolve the country’s problems”.
  • Anther member of the ruling coalition, the Golkar Party, said it is reasonable for Nasdem to start its political maneuvers now to anticipate the “free market” of the 2024 elections, when more presidential candidates are expected than the two who ran in 2019.
  • “That’s politics, but we should maintain our commitment to build the nation and support the government,” Golkar secretary-general Lodewijk Freidrich Paulus said.
  • Gerindra shares the same opinion as Golkar about NasDem.
  • “It seems that the future coalition will be Gerindra and PDI-P and they [NasDem] understood this and seek a coalition with PKS,” said a party executive, Desmond J. Mahesa.

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