Prabowo presidency may face a hostile, opposition-controlled parliament, analysts say

Pizaro Gozali Idrus and Nazarudin Latif
Prabowo presidency may face a hostile, opposition-controlled parliament, analysts say Indonesian Defense Minister and presidential frontrunner Prabowo Subianto greets supporters before visiting the grave of Habib Ali bin Abdurrahman Al-Habsyi at the Al Riyadh Mosque in Jakarta, Feb. 16, 2024
Achmad Ibrahim/AP

Prabowo Subianto, Indonesia’s defense minister and presumptive next president, may face difficulties implementing his government policies because parliament looks set to be controlled by the opposition parties, analysts said. 

Provided some or all these opposition parties don't end up throwing in their lot with Prabowo, they collectively won 46% of the legislature’s 580 seats, while the alliance that backed the defense minister only won 42%, unofficial vote counts after Wednesday’s elections showed.

This means that Prabowo may have to rely on the support of some of his rivals to pass legislation after being sworn in as president Oct. 30, according to Devi Darmawan, a political analyst at the National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN).

“Prabowo could have problems if he fails to secure more parliamentary support, as the opposition parties may have more seats than his supporters,” Devi told BenarNews. 

“If [the opposition parties] form a solid coalition, they could block Prabowo’s plans.”

Legislation includes the annual budget, and among Prabowo’s plans is his campaign promise to carry on with the relocation of the capital city from Jakarta, on Java island, to East Kalimantan, on Borneo island. 

Prabowo has pledged to build on the economic record of outgoing President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and implement his programs, such as the U.S. $33 billion capital relocation project. 

The defense minister also promised the continuance of industrial downstreaming, a policy that aims to add value to Indonesia’s natural resources by processing them into finished or semi-finished products before exporting them. 

Devi said the opposition parties could also thwart a controversial bill that would allow the president to appoint the governor of Jakarta directly, instead of through a regional election.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo (center) accompanied by Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto (back), and Yahya Cholil Staquf (right), chairman of the executive council of Nahdlatul Ulama, attends the commemoration of National Santri Day in Surabaya, East Java, Oct. 22, 2023. [Juni Kriswanto/AFP]

Prabowo, an ex-army general with a questionable human rights record, declared himself the winner of the presidential election held Wednesday after several unofficial counts gave him about 58% of the vote.

He will replace two-term incumbent Jokowi, who is constitutionally limited from contesting a third term.

Prabowo’s rivals in the presidential contest, Anies Baswedan, a former Jakarta governor, and Ganjar Pranowo, the candidate nominated by the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), received 25% and 17%, respectively, of the votes, the unofficial counts showed.

The coalition of parties that supported Anies received around 29% of the seats in the 580-member House of Representatives and the ruling PDI-P secured some 17%, according to the quick vote counts – thus accounting for a total of 46% seats currently with the opposition.

Of the parties backing Prabowo, his own Gerindra secured around 13%, Golkar some 15%, and PAN and Demokrat around 7% each – totaling 42%.

About 11% of the votes went to parties that are expected to fail to meet the parliamentary threshold of 4% each.

Among the possible opposition parties, the PDI-P, led by former President Megawati Sukarnoputri, is the largest. Jokowi is also a member of this party. 

Megawati and Prabowo once contested for president and vice president, respectively, together – in the 2009 election. But this time, Megawati’s PDI-P, which backed Ganjar, is unlikely to join forces with her former running mate.

Although they have denied it, relations between the PDI-P and Jokowi are strained amid talk of a rift between him and Megawati. 

Presidential candidate Megawati Sukarnoputri (left) and her running mate Prabowo Subianto make a number one sign during a campaign rally ahead of the 2009 presidential election in Jakarta, June 30, 2009. [Bay Ismoyo/AFP]

Additionally, Jokowi all but backed another party’s presidential candidate – Prabowo and the running mate he picked, Gibran Rakabuming Raka, who is Jokowi’s eldest son. And while Gibran has left the PDI-P, Jokowi has not formally quit.

The PDI-P’s decade-long experience as the opposition – from 2004 to 2014 – could trouble Prabowo’s government, said Arga Pribadi Imawan, a political analyst from Gadjah Mada University.

The party had performed solidly as the opposition, keeping the government in check and strengthening its internal unity, until it became the dominant force in the government after the end of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s two-term presidency, he said.

“PDI-P will have an opportunity to embark on political regeneration, and consolidate internally if it becomes the opposition,” Arga told BenarNews. 

Prabowo ‘will align with Jokowi’s preference’

What, then, could be Prabowo’s options?

He may seek support from former opponents, such as the National Awakening Party (PKB) and the National Democratic Party (Nasdem), which had previously supported Jokowi but this time backed presidential candidate Anies against Prabowo, analysts said.

“Nasdem and PKB could join the Prabowo coalition with a lower bargain,” Arga said referring to what Prabowo would have to offer the two parties to gain their support.

One analyst predicted Prabowo was unlikely to offer his other presidential opponent Anies a cabinet position because he and Jokowi have a strained relationship.

When he first won the presidency in 2014, Jokowi appointed Anies his education and culture minister, but removed him two years later. Many say the two clashed over Anies’ personal political ambitions.

“Prabowo’s political strategy will likely align with Jokowi’s preferences,” Dedi Kurnia Syah, executive director of polling agency Indonesia Political Opinion, told BenarNews.

Dedi said there was an outside chance Prabowo could win over the PDI-P.

Puan Maharani, Megawati’s daughter who serves as the parliamentary speaker, is more sympathetic to Prabowo and Jokowi than her mother, he said.

Puan often defended Prabowo and the government from the criticism of some PDI-P members, Dedi said. 

“It is possible that Prabowo will try to reach out to Puan Maharani’s faction,” he told BenarNews.


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