Indonesia’s ruling party picks popular governor, Ganjar Pranowo, as presidential candidate

Nazarudin Latif and Pizaro Idrus Gozali
Bogor, Indonesia
Indonesia’s ruling party picks popular governor, Ganjar Pranowo, as presidential candidate Central Java province Gov. Ganjar Pranowo, 2024 presidential candidate of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), delivers a speech during the party’s meeting at Batu Tulis palace in Bogor, West Java province, April 21, 2023.
[Jafar Umar Zaman/Handout via Reuters]

Indonesia’s ruling party on Friday announced it has chosen a popular governor, Ganjar Pranowo, as its candidate for the 2024 presidential election in Southeast Asia’s largest democracy. 

The announcement by Megawati Sukarnoputri, chairwoman of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), sets up a potential three-way race, with Ganjar expected to face former Jakarta Gov. Anies Baswedan and Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto.

“I assign Ganjar Pranowo as a party official to be the candidate for Indonesian president from PDI-P,” said Megawati, a former president and daughter of Indonesia’s founding president Sukarno.

She also instructed Puan Maharani, her daughter and House of Representatives speaker, to lead campaigning for the election, which is scheduled for Feb. 14, 2024. Some analysts have said Megawati could seek to pair Ganjar with her daughter Puan as running mates.

The presidential election is shaping up to be hotly contested as no potential candidate polled higher than 35% in recent surveys. A run-off is scheduled to be held on June 26, 2024, if no candidate secures more than 50% of the vote.

Prabowo, a former special forces commander who served under autocratic Indonesian leader Suharto, has lost twice to Joko “Jokowi” Widodo in the previous elections.

Following Suharto’s 1998 resignation amid political and economic upheavals, the army discharged Prabowo for his alleged role in the kidnapping of political activists as commander of the army special forces (Kopassus). 

Prabowo, who has emerged as the frontrunner in the latest surveys, has denied committing or being a party to any human rights violations.

A poll conducted this month by Indonesia Survey Institute (LSI), a private pollster, showed that Prabowo had 30.3% of the votes, followed by Ganjar with 26.9%, and Anies with 25.3%.

The results indicate a significant shift in public opinion since the previous LSI survey in February, which had Ganjar leading with 35%.

Ganjar, 52, has faced criticism and backlash from football fans for his role in FIFA’s decision in March to strip Indonesia of its right to host the Under-20 World Cup.

He was among those who had voiced opposition to Israel’s participation in the tournament. Muslim-majority Indonesia does not have diplomatic relations with Israel, but Jokowi had said sports and politics should not mix.

Argentina has since been appointed to replace Indonesia as the event host. 

Jokowi, who was present for Megawati’s announcement, welcomed Ganjar’s nomination.

“Mr. Ganjar is a leader who is close to the people, always goes down to the grassroots and is very ideological,” said Jokowi, whose second and final term in office ends next year.

“I want to emphasize that the succession of national leadership is a necessity as mandated by the Constitution, but the change of leaders must not derail the continuity of the struggle of the Indonesian nation,” he said.

Meanwhile, Anies, who is supported by a three-party alliance – Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), the Democratic Party and the National Democratic Party – has maintained his popularity among Muslim conservatives and urban voters. 

He had won the divisive 2017 gubernatorial election in Jakarta by courting support from conservative Muslim groups despite his liberal credentials. A former university lecturer and education minister, Anies has been vocal about his vision for Indonesia’s future development and social justice.

Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country with more than 270 million people, has held direct presidential elections since 2004 after decades of authoritarian rule under Suharto. 

‘Positive reaction’

If elected, Ganjar would continue Jokowi’s programs, including the construction of the new national capital on Borneo island, said Djayadi Hanan, executive director of the Indonesian Survey Institute.

“Ganjar is considered the most likely to continue Jokowi’s unfinished programs,” Djayadi told BenarNews.

His nomination has helped quash rumors of a rift between Megawati and Jokowi about who should get the party’s nod for the presidential race,  said Aditya Perdana, a political analyst at the University of Indonesia. 

“Today’s event proved that PDI-P is united, as shown by how Megawati and Jokowi sat together,” Aditya told BenarNews. “This certainly answered doubts about any differences of opinion within the party regarding the presidential nomination. 

“Moreover, the announcement was made openly to the public and likely to receive a positive reaction toward the party,” he said.


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