JK, Puan, and even Prabowo: Potential vice presidents being rumored to run with President Joko Widodo in the 2019 election

Indonesian President Joko Widodo. Photo: Reuters
Indonesian President Joko Widodo. Photo: Reuters

Last Friday, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) made no surprises by officially nominating President Joko Widodo to run for a second term in the 2019 election. With the government’s coalition of parties set to continue their support for Jokowi and his poll numbers remaining strong, his victory, barring any extraordinary events between now and 2019, is all but assured.

The big remaining question from Jokowi’s camp is who will be paired to run as the incumbent’s vice president? Following Jokowi’s nomination, the media and political analysts in Indonesia have been speculating as to who the ideal second-in-command would be (never mind that we’re still more than a year away from heading to the voting booth).

From current VP Jusuf Kalla to opposition leader Prabowo Subianto, below is a round up of politicians who have been talked about as Jokowi’s potential running mate recently:

Jusuf Kalla

Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla. Photo: AFP

There has been no indication that Jokowi’s relationship with VP Jusuf Kalla, popularly known as JK, has been anything less than amicable. At the very least, there have been no public rifts between the pair ever since they assumed office in 2014.

For that reason, some in PDI-P are contemplating nominating JK once again as Jokowi’s VP in 2019. The problem is, under Indonesia’s constitution, a president or vice president is only allowed to serve for two terms, and JK had already served his first term as VP under President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono from 2004-2009.

However, supporters of Jokowi-JK are hoping to exploit a legal loophole in the constitution, as it doesn’t state whether or not the two terms must be served in succession. For his part, JK said he would not run again as VP out of respect for the constitution.

There is no legal ambiguity about whether the 75-year-old could run as president, though. Could JK garner support from his Golkar party (which is officially part of the government’s coalition but, in reality, is split internally between the government and the opposition) to mount a challenge against Jokowi? If he does, then Jokowi’s path to reelection could be far from smooth.

Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono

agus harimurti sylviana murni
Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono with running mate Sylviana Murni in the 2017 Jakarta election. Photo: Instagram

Thirty nine-year-old Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono may be the youngest potential VP to appear on this list, and he may not have any political experience beyond losing in the 2017 Jakarta gubernatorial election, but he came out on top in a recent survey of people’s preferences for vice president as many respondents said they wanted a young and charismatic politician to take the job.

The Demokrat party, which was founded by Agus’ father and former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, has hinted that they would back PDI-P’s coalition in the 2019 election if Agus was selected as Jokowi’s second-in-command.

Jokowi-Agus is not completely out of the question, especially as Agus was confirmed to have met with PDI-P Chairwoman Megawati Soekarnoputri (the person who ultimately has the final say on who Jokowi’s VP will be) over the weekend. If the political union came to fruition, than the Demokrat’s backing (they had previously stayed neutral in the 2014 election) would be an immense boost to Jokowi’s chances for reelection.

Muhaimin Iskandar

Muhaimin Iskandar (center right) with President Jokowi. Photo: Instagram/@cakiminow

Realistically speaking, however, the candidate for VP will very likely come from the government’s existing coalition if PDI-P aims to appease its allies. Possibly the biggest name from the coalition is Muhaimin Iskandar, chairman of the National Awakening Party (PKB) and Minister of Manpower and Transmigration under Jokowi.

Muhaimin as Jokowi’s running mate would undoubtedly attract a great number of Islamic voters, considering the former is chair of an Islamic party and is an influential figure within Nahdlatul Ulama, the biggest Islamic organization in the world.


Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs Wiranto Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Former military general and current Hanura party Chairman Wiranto has been a loyal ally to Jokowi since 2014, backing the president’s campaign then before going on to serve as his Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal, and Security Affairs.

Politicians at Hanura have publicly suggested that Wiranto deserves to be Jokowi’s running mate in 2019 due to their chairman’s wealth of experience in Indonesian politics. Whether the suggestion will turn into a flat out demand remains to be seen, but it wouldn’t be in Jokowi’s interest to ignore one of his strongest allies.

All that being said, Wiranto has quite a dark past. Human rights activists decried his appointment as Jokowi’s senior minister as Wiranto was among those indicted by United Nations prosecutors over gross human rights abuses during Indonesia’s 24-year occupation of tiny East Timor, during which time around 100,000 people were estimated to be killed.

Puan Maharani

Indonesian President Joko Widodo (R) watches as former president Megawati Sukarnoputri and her daughter Puan Maharani, a minister in his cabinet, take a selfie with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman (C) at the presidential palace in Jakarta, Indonesia March 2, 2017 in this photo taken by Presidential Palace Photographer. Presidential Palace Photographer/Agus Suparto/Handout via REUTERS

If Megawati Soekarnoputri wants to form a political dynasty, then placing her daughter Puan Maharani one step away from the presidency would be the obvious move. After all, there was a hint of nepotism when Puan, who previously had no experience in a government position, was appointed as one of Jokowi’s senior cabinet officials in 2014 when she was tapped to be the Coordinating Minister for Human Development and Cultural Affairs (which was a new post created for Jokowi’s cabinet).

When asked about the possibility she might run for VP recently, Puan refused to comment and said (rightly so) that a lot can happen between now and 2019.

Prabowo Subianto

President Jokowi horse riding with Prabowo Subianto. Photo: Reuters

It would be a major surprise if Jokowi were to be paired with Prabowo Subianto, his losing rival in the closely-contested 2014 election. Prabowo is the leader of the most represented party in the opposition, Gerindra, and is seen as having total control over his faction, effectively making him Megawati’s direct counterpart.

Gerindra is expected to officially announce Prabowo as their presidential candidate very soon, yet recently there has been talk of their chairman being considered as Jokowi’s ideal running mate in 2019. Even Bambang Soesatyo, chairman of the House of Representatives, supported the idea as it could reconcile the (sometimes hostile) differences between Jokowi and Prabowo’s supporters.

Is Prabowo as VP likely? Well, the former military general is widely seen as a strong-willed and determined politician, so he likely won’t ever forget that Megawati backed out on her promise to nominate him as president in 2014 after he ran with her as her VP candidate in 2009 (which they lost). Accepting nomination as VP to the man Megawati broke her promise for and eventually beat him in 2014 would certainly not be a dignified look for Prabowo.

On the other hand, Prabowo becoming Jokowi’s VP could be a strategic step for the former’s rise to the presidency. Waiting in the wings until the end of Jokowi’s second term in 2024 could be a better option than spending a huge amount of energy and resources going head-to-head against the incumbent, who is, according to current polling, the only politician who could clearly beat Prabowo in an election.

If Prabowo does become Jokowi’s candidate for VP, however, then we might as well not hold the presidential election next year as Gerindra leaving the opposition means that they won’t have the number of seats in parliament necessary to nominate a presidential candidate. After that, we’ll be left with a government that is much too powerful, and that is a scary thought indeed.

Of course, a lot can happen between now and the presidential election in April 2019, most notably the nationwide regional elections this year. Based on how that goes, we might see shifts in coalitions that could greatly influence the political landscape of Indonesia as well as the choice of VPs. Some rising politicians may also fancy putting themselves in the running as well before long, such as Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan, former military chief Gatot Nurmantyo or Finance Minister Sri Mulyani.

Candidates for president and vice president will be officially registered with the General Election Commission in September 2018.

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