PDI-P and the unavoidable coalition
Salvatore Simarmata ; A political communication researcher,
A lecturer at Atma Jaya Catholic University of Indonesia, Jakarta
JAKARTA POST, 12 April 2014
Far below the expectations of many, the legislative election results may pose a rocky trajectory for the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) for the upcoming presidential election and subsequent government formation. A coalition government is, sadly, unavoidable.
The small gain of PDI-P in the April 9 election was far off the predictions of pre-election surveys, which estimated the party’s share of the vote to hit, at least, 20 percent thanks to Joko Widodo’s “Jokowi effect”. On the contrary, the Jakarta governors’ “effect” did very little for the party’s performance.
So, what went wrong? Nothing.
What happened was that there is no real correlation between the PDI-P as a party and its presidential candidate Jokowi.
The positive predictions for Jokowi’s presidential nomination were driven by the mass media’s portrayal of Jokowi’s success story as mayor of Surakarta and the unprecedented gubernatorial election win in Jakarta.
However, when Jokowi appeared on TV or paid his campaign obligations to the party, very rarely, if any, he spoke or reflected on his agenda as a presidential candidate for the party.
In comparison, if we look at the way the Gerindra Party’s presidential candidate, Prabowo Subianto, campaigned we see that he positioned himself as a presidential candidate and, despite his troubling past, spoke with specific detail about programs concerning the economy and other national interests. Prabowo gave voters a future reality he would fight for.
It would be different had Jokowi been nominated, for instance, in January 2014, with specific political messages concerning how he would run the country as a president in every campaign or media appearances.
There is a huge incentive for running focused and specific campaigns as voters are so bored with the old style of politics and the crazy promises it brings.
Now that the public has made up its mind, the PDI-P has a challenge ahead: How will they form a coalition to win the July presidential election?
First, the PDI-P should avoid the same coalition mistake of the incumbent party. To do that the PDI-P should base its coalition partnership on a firm ideological foundation with a practical governing agenda, which will include how they will agree to appoint members of the cabinet from highly competent professional figures instead of from party members with a million hidden political agendas.
It means, in a sense, the coalition should not be based on ministerial-seat distribution but on how to work together to boost the nation’s development, welfare of the people and prosperity through philosophical contribution, observation, evaluation and research-based policy recommendations.
Second, the PDI-P should avoid establishing a coalition with parties that are corrupt in the eyes of the public. Corruption is the number one public enemy in this country. Breaking the convention will distance the PDI-P from the impression of a reformist party, which will certainly disappoint people. Public disappointment, like what the Democratic Party is facing now, results in a shocking plummet of electoral gain, in the Dems’ case from 20 percent in 2009 to only 9 in 2014.
Third, the PDI-P should lay out a political agenda for the country for the next five years or more. The popularity of Jokowi will not help if the political machine backing him does not have a clear and solid political program to be achieved when they govern. Until now, the public have not been exposed to a thorough roadmap of the PDI-P political master plan for this nation.
Fourth, Jokowi should start acting like a presidential candidate in a much more optimistic posture. Giving perspective and strong political standpoint on issues posed by journalists is highly needed and much better than avoiding it with short phrases. Jokowi absolutely has a unique personality and style of leadership.
However, as a presidential candidate, Jokowi should show the public how he will solve the problems that the public faces while setting goals as to where the nation is heading, for instance in the context of a borderless ASEAN Economic Community in the coming years.
Certainly, Jokowi will not entirely handle practical economic details as he will have ministers. But, still, people want to know how he approaches important issues personally.
Fifth, the PDI-P should not merely focus on forming a coalition to win the presidential election. There is a hidden treasure in politics of how the PDI-P could contribute to the consolidating of our democracy, which is motivating other parties to form a parallel coalition.
By refusing to hold a coalition with as many as possible parties, the PDI-P will indirectly push other parties to form a coalition so they could contest the election. In the end, we will have a much more equal contestation from all groups of coalition.
Shortly after the quick-count results were revealed, almost all party leaders said they were open to all parties to form a coalition.
That would mean nearly all the parties out of 12 will have a claim to seats in the House of Representatives.