Indonesia’s presidential election has heralded a change in the old guard, with Joko Widodo emerging as the winner of the mandate that took place on 9 July. The election, that took place 16 years after Indonesia’s transition to democracy and the overthrow of the Suharto regime, indicates the consolidation of the democratic structures within this nascent democracy. Interestingly in this election, Jokowi, as he is popularly known, represents a change from the older leadership in Indonesia – that has often been associated with political families and the military leadership. In that context, he is a newcomer on the national political scene – with his earlier avatar in politics as the governor of Jakarta and as the mayor of Solo. What is significant about his victory is that his opponent was Prabowo Subianto – Suharto’s son-in-law, and has been implicated for human rights violations. This is also indicative of the degree of discomfort the linkages to the past regime brings among the population, despite Prabowo Subianto being likely to allege the results to be fraudulent.
This has been an election year for Indonesia. In the May 2014 elections to the Indonesian parliament, , citizens cast their votes for four councils. Additionally, elections to local councils – created as a result of the decentralisation process that is critical to Indonesia’s democratic consolidation – too were held. The Provincial and Regency elections too were held, on 9 April. The Partai Demokrasi Indonesia Perjuangan (PDI-P) or the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, the opposition party in the last government, won the elections with 18.95 per cent of the vote. This was followed by the Golongan Karya (Golkar), the is former party of the military functional groups that secured 14.75 per cent of the votes. The third largest party, the Great Indonesian Movement Party (Gerinda) that was led by Prabowo Subianto, won 11.81 per cent of the votes.
While the aforementioned groups emerged as the leading parties in the legislative elections, neither could qualify to nominate a candidate for the presidential elections on their own. Therefore, in order to nominate a candidate, the parties had to secure coalitions with other parties in the DPR to propose a presidential candidate for direct presidential elections – that Indonesia has been following since 2004. According to the laws governing the Presidential elections, a political party must officially secure a minimum of 25 per cent of the popular vote or 20 per cent of seats in the Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat (DPR), the lower house of the parliament, to be eligible to nominate a presidential candidate.
Following the legislative elections in April 2014, the need for coalitions to secure the necessary percentage of seats and votes prompted Jokowi to request the former Vice President of Indonesia, Jusuf Kalla, to be his running mate. This combination was critical to Jokowi’s victory because Kalla is a former Chairman of the Golkar party that came in second in the legislative election. The tie-up with Kalla was potentially the trump card for Jokowi as this was seen as a critical factor in splitting the Golkar votes – given Kalla’s considerable influence among supporters. Interestingly Aburizal Bakrie, the current Chairman of the Golkar, had, during one of the Party’s national meetings, stated that that the party actually backed the combination of Prabowo Subianto and his running mate, Hatta Rajasa. In fact, a split in the Golkar was a clear sign that Prabowo Subianto may not be acceptable to many due to his views on Indonesian nationalism and the human rights violations that he has been associated with under the Suharto regime.
In the finally tally, the Jokowi-Kalla combination won 53.16 per cent of the votes while the Prabowo-Rajasa combination won 46.48 per cent of the votes in what emerged as the most closely contested elections since Indonesia’s transition. With the victory of the Jokowi-Kalla group, Golkar may throw its full weight behind the new team, wanting to be on the right side of the political fault-line.
Of the electoral promises Jokowi made, the creation of ten million new jobs and continued economic reforms are the most significant challenges. Jusuf Kalla brings with him the experience in economic reforms, which also needs to translate into the much promised subsidies to assist in poverty alleviation. Agrarian land reforms need to be addressed, as does the crucial question of environmental conservation policies – that have to be implemented to counter detrimental effects of deforestation Indonesia has been facing. Rampant corruption and nepotism are critical factors that undermine the democratic consolidation in Indonesia. These are also crucial challenges which the new president and his team will have to tackle.