Indonesian Political Party Profiles
The General Election for the legislature takes place on April 9.
Twelve political parties are competing. Here are their profiles:
1. National Democrat Party (NasDem – Nasional Demokrat)
Leader: Surya Paloh (since 2011)
Founded: 26 July 2011
% Votes in 2009 Election: None (new party)
Details: There was much positive buzz when the National Democrat movement was founded in 2010 by 45 intellectuals, liberal politicians and businesspersons determined to change Indonesia for the better. The organization gave birth to the NasDem Party, which was soon riven by internal disputes. Most damaging was a falling out between media tycoons Surya Paloh (owner of the Metro TV network and Media Indonesia daily newspaper) and Hary Tanoesoedibjo (chief of the MNC media group). Hary quit the party in early 2013 and many of the founders followed. They had wanted to see NasDem led by a younger generation of politicians, whereas Surya seemed determined to control the party. Hary later joined ex-general Wiranto's Hanura Party.
Surya Paloh, who comes from Aceh province, has long been politically ambitious. In 2004, he failed to become Golkar Party's presidential candidate. He stayed with Golkar and became chief of its supervisory board. In 2009, he lost the Golkar leadership race to bitter rival Aburizal Bakrie. In 2011, he left Golkar and formed the NasDem Party at a luxury hotel in North Jakarta. Despite being a new party, NasDem was able to meet the stringent eligibility requirements for the 2014 general election – such as chapters in 33 provinces – thanks to the wealth of Surya and Hary.
Presidential candidate: Officially none yet (as of March 2014). Unofficially, Surya Paloh.
Support base: Small, mostly limited to urban areas.
Policies: Reducing parliament's control over the president, a minimum 10 year jail sentence for corrupt politicians and no sentence remissions, setting up a special jail on a remote island for corruptors, and better allocation of natural resources to boost infrastructure and prevent power failures.
Prospects: Dismal. NasDem is no longer viewed as a serious threat to Golkar and may end up aligning itself with PDIP. Metro TV is being used for this courtship by giving positive coverage to PDIP. Polling groups say NasDem is unlikely to meet the minimum threshold of 3.5% required for parliamentary representation. Despite having offices across the country, grassroots support is poor. The party may not survive for the 2019 elections.
Media associations: Metro TV and Media Indonesia newspaper.
2. National Awakening Party (PKB – Partai Kebangkitan Bangsa)
Leader: Muhaimin Iskandar (since 2008)
Founded: 23 July 1998
% Votes in 2009 Election: 4.94%
Details: PKB was founded as the political wing of the nation's largest Muslim organization, the moderate Nahdlatul Ulama, which opposes calls for Indonesia to become an Islamic state. The party's founder Abdurrahman Wahid, better known as Gus Dur, became president in 1999, only to be impeached in 2001 after his attempts at reform and his sometimes erratic behavior upset other parties and the military. PKB has twice split into rival factions, most recently in 2008 when Gus Dur sacked his nephew Muhaimin Iskandar as the party's secretary general. Muhaimin challenged his dismissal in court and won. PKB remains beset by squabbles, which have diminished its strength. It remains popular in parts of rural Java, despite the death of Gus Dur in late 2009.
PKB in January 2014 appointed Lion Air boss Rusdi Kirana as its deputy chairman. He said his admiration of Gus Dur, as a supporter of ethnic Chinese, had prompted him to join the party. Gus Dur's family said Wahid's name should no longer be connected to this faction of the party
Presidential candidate: PKB is unlikely to win enough votes to field its own candidate. It has mentioned supporting three possible candidates: former Constitutional Court chief Mohammad Mahfud MD (who has so far escaped a corruption scandal at the court), dangdut music 'king' Rhoma Irama (known for anti-Chinese views and previously a campaigner for Golkar and PPP), and former vice president Jusuf Kalla (who remains popular despite his assertion that Indonesia needs thugs to run the country).
Support base: Rural Java, especially East Java.
Policies: Pluralism, humanism, protection of minorities.
Prospects: Low. PKB won more than 10% of the vote in the 1999 and 2004 elections, but scored just under 5% in 2009. Having a celebrity candidate and the ethnic Chinese founder of Lion Air may boost the party's performance, but it also needs to mend its feud with Gus Dur's daughters.
Media associations: Lion Air's Harian Nasional, distributed free on Lion flights.
3. Prosperous Justice Party (PKS – Partai Keadilan Sejahtera)
Leader: Anis Matta (since 2013)
Founded: 20 July 1998 as the Justice Party, on 20 April 2002 became PKS
% Votes in 2009 Election: 7.88%
Details: After a poor showing in the 1999 general election, the Islam-based Justice Party rebuilt itself as PKS, cultivating an image as a morally clean, clever and caring Islamic party. The makeover succeeded and PKS went on to win 7.3% of votes in the 2004 election. But since 2013, the party's image has been severely tarnished by a corruption scandal involving beef imports and payments to high-class prostitutes. PKS tried to play the popularity card in 2013 by opposing the government's reduction of costly fuel subsidies – even though it is a member of the ruling coalition. The move backfired and PKS is now languishing in opinion polls.
Presidential candidate: PKS is unlikely to get enough votes to field a presidential candidate. Despite that, it has listed three names: the party's founder and chief patron Hidayat Nur Wahid, incumbent chairman (and polygamist) Anis Matta, and West Java governor Ahmad Heryawan (who has been accused of discrimination against religious minorities).
Support base: Previously appealed to urban Muslim intellectuals, but support has slumped.
Policies: Islamic values, such as sharia law. Denies polygamy is policy, despite having many polygamists. Opposes “neo-liberal” economic policies. Wants foreign investment from Muslim-majority countries. Flip-flops between supporting and opposing the cutting of costly energy subsidies. Once strident calls for capital punishment for corruption ceased after senior PKS members were implicated in corruption scandals. Communications and Information Minister Tifatul Sembiring (former PKS president) has said natural disasters are caused by immoral television shows.
Prospects: Dismal. Once lauded as the future of political Islam in Indonesia and a clean alternative, PKS is now viewed as just as corrupt as the other parties.
Media associations: None. The media revelled in covering the PKS beef/sex scandal.
4. Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP – Partai Demokrasi Indonesia Perjuangan)
Leader: Megawati Soekarnoputri (since 1999)
Founded: 10 January 1999
% Votes in 2009 Election: 14.03%
Details: Megawati was drafted into politics in 1986 by those seeking to exploit her political pedigree – her father was Indonesia's hugely popular founding president Soekarno, who had been ousted by Soeharto and died under house arrest. From 1987, Megawati served as a member of the pro-Soeharto Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI) – one of only three parties permitted by the regime. She became party chairwoman in 1993 and was ousted in 1996 because she was seen as a threat to Soeharto. Her ouster sparked massive riots that left several people dead in Jakarta. After the fall of Soeharto in 1998, she formed PDIP, which won most of the votes in the June 1999 general election. Many hailed her as a savior, perhaps impressed by her speeches written by composer Eros Djarot.
Megawati failed to win the presidency and had to settle for the vice presidency. Some senior officials within PDIP said privately: “She is too stupid to become president.” Yet she became president by default in July 2001 when reformist Muslim cleric Abdurrahman Wahid was sacked by parliament. In 2004, Megawati stood for a second term and was trounced by ex-general Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who months earlier had resigned as her chief security minister. In 2009. Megawati took a third stab at the presidency, this time with ex-general Prabowo Subianto as her running mate. Again, she failed to defeat Yudhoyono. Many of PDIP's founders have quit over the years in protest at Megawati's rigid control of the party and her failure to tackle corruption.
Presidential candidate: On March 14, 2014, Joko Widodo announced that Megawati had selected him as PDIP's presidential candidate. Megawati's husband Taufik Kiemas, who died in 2013, had hoped their daughter Puan – regarded as more intelligent than Megawati – would become the party's presidential candidate and continue the Soekarno dynasty.
Support base: Wide. Secular Muslims, Christians, Hindus and Buddhists. PDIP has dominated elections in Central Java, Bali and parts of Kalimantan.
Policies: Nationalism and secularism. Positions itself as the champion of the poor.
Prospects: Strong. After 10 years in opposition, PDIP should easily return to power this year, now that it is fielding Jokowi for the presidency. The party has recruited several other popular and youthful candidates.
Media associations: Surya Paloh's Metro TV network and Media Indonesia daily have been giving positive coverage to PDIP.
5. Golkar (the Functional Group Party – Partai Golongan Karya)
Leader: Aburizal Bakrie (since 2009)
Founded: 20 October 1964
% Votes in 2009 Election: 14.45%
Details: Golkar was founded as an Army-led grouping of professions and unions aimed at countering the influence of the Indonesian Communist Party. In 1968, Soeharto chose Golkar as his political vehicle, although he had initial misgivings that it was run by gangsters and womanizers. Under his rule, Golkar dominated every election through intimidation, vote-rigging, vote-buying and some level of genuine popularity. After the fall of Soeharto, Golkar remained strong thanks to its wealth and infrastructure, and by cutting links with those closest to Soeharto. Power struggles have seen Golkar suffer numerous splits over the years. Ex-generals Wiranto and Prabowo Subianto quit to form their own parties, as did media tycoon Surya Paloh.
Presidential Candidate: Tycoon Aburizal Bakrie, although the party is not unanimously behind him. Some Golkar members would prefer to have former Vice President Jusuf Kalla or former chairman Akbar Tandjung as their presidential candidate. Bakrie's reputation has been tainted by a mud-flow disaster caused by the alleged negligence of one of his companies, and by his maneuvering in 2010 to oust reformist finance minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati after she tried to make his coal companies pay their tax.
Support Base: Golkar performs strongly in Eastern Indonesia, Sulawesi, the Malukus and Sumatra.
Policies: Golkar is nationalist and secular, and supports economic liberalization.
Prospects: Strong. The party is much more popular than its leader Aburizal Bakrie. Golkar finished first in the 2004 election, second in the 2009 election and is expected to finish in the top three in 2014. Could pick up former supporters of the Democratic Party if they are not more impressed by Prabowo Subianto's Gerindra and Megawati's PDIP.
6. Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra – Partai Gerakan Indonesia Raya)
Leader: Prabowo Subianto
Founded: 6 February 2008
% Votes in 2009 Election: 4.47%
Details: In 2004, former general Prabowo was among five candidates seeking to become Golkar Party's presidential candidate. He came last in the first round of voting. No one was surprised, given the considerable negative baggage he carried. He was Soeharto's disgraced son-in-law, discharged from the military in August 1998 because troops under his command had abducted and tortured pro-democracy activists, some of whom remain “missing”. Deadly anti-Chinese riots and mass rapes in Jakarta in May 1998 that precipitated Soeharto's downfall were seen as the result of a power struggle between Prabowo and then military commander Wiranto. Prabowo has denied any role in the carnage.
The son of prominent economist Sumitro Djojohadikusumo, who served under Soekarno and Soeharto, Prabowo feels it is his destiny “to serve” as Indonesia's future leader. He is notorious for his bad temper, yet this is not always viewed as a weakness. He is fond of polo, goats and dogs. His favorite dog, Baron, travels in a specially modified car. There have long been rumors that Prabowo was injured when serving in East Timor – though even close relatives and Gerindra members are afraid to ask if the rumors are true.
When B.J. Habibie became president in 1998, Prabowo is widely reported to have gone to the presidential palace to demand he be promoted to Army chief. Instead, Prabowo was reassigned to a non-combat role, then dismissed and went into exile Jordan for a few years. In December 2004 he became chairman of the Indonesian Farmers Association – a move that built his image and rural popularity. Next, he formed Gerindra with some other old generals. He managed to convince three of the activists previously kidnapped by his troops to work for the party.
In 2009, Gerindra failed to win enough votes for Prabowo to run for the presidency. Instead, he stood as Megawati Soekarnoputri's running mate. Since then, Gerindra has worked hard across the country to bolster its popularity. Many Indonesians do not care about Prabowo's human rights record or the wealth of his billionaire brother Hashim Djojohadikusumo. Supporters are attracted by Prabowo's bombastic charisma and feel he would be a welcome change to the indecisive Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and the taciturn Megawati Soekarnoputri.
Presidential Candidate: Prabowo
Support base: Wide. Gerindra has been clever in recruiting popular candidates in the provinces, listening to constituents and promoting populist policies. Yet Prabowo is more popular than the party itself. Prabowo in 2000 divorced Soeharto's middle daughter Siti 'Titiek' Hediati Hariyadi. Gerindra members say they have since been trying to find him a new wife to bolster his image, but without success.
Policies: Conservative nationalism, social democracy, infrastructure development, efficient government spending. Opposed social assistance payments to the poor. Prabowo has said it's better that he owns coal firms, rather than foreign companies. Some Gerindra members have spoken against constitutional amendments that were designed to protect human rights.
Prospects: Strong. Gerindra is likely to finish among the top three parties, probably after PDIP and Golkar. Some Gerindra members have resigned since 2012, upset by Prabowo's dominance and the servility of his lackeys, but this has not severely dented the party's popularity. Until the rise of Jokowi, it seemed almost certain that Prabowo would become president if he could get enough parties to support him.
7. Democratic Party (Partai Demokrat)
Leader: Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (since 2013)
Founded: 9 September 2001
% Votes in 2009 Election: 20.85%
Details: The Democratic Party was established in 2001 as a political vehicle to carry Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to the presidency in the 2004 elections. Other parties have since followed its template, such as Hanura, Gerindra and NasDem. SBY became leader of the party only in 2013 after its embattled chairman Anas Urbaningrum resigned over a corruption case.
When SBY was elected in 2004, he was widely regarded as the best thing to happen to Indonesia since the fall of Soeharto. He won re-election in 2009, but since then, the Democratic Party's image has been tainted by scandals and the president's indecisiveness. SBY cannot, by law, run for a third term – so the party's fate is uncertain. SBY's speeches in English are good when written by Dino Patti Djalal, but his speeches in Indonesian have been known to send children to sleep.
Presidential candidate: The party is holding a convention to select a candidate and there are 10 hopefuls: former Army chief Pramono Edhie Wibowo, House of Representatives speaker Marzuki Alie, State-Owned Enterprises Minister Dahlan Iskan, former trade minister Gita Wirjawan, former youth and sports minister Hayono Isman; former military commander Endriartono Sutarto; Paramadina University rector Anies Baswedan, former ambassador Dino Patti Djalal, Supreme Audit Agency member Ali Masykur Musa, Regional Representatives Council chairman Irman Gusman, and North Sulawesi governor Sinyo Harry Sarundajang. The candidate will be chosen in May after a series of elections. Favorites are Pramono Edhie Wibowo (SBY's brother-in-law) and Gita Wirjawan.
Support base: Massive in 2009, especially among urban middle class. Now in sharp decline.
Policies: Nationalism, pluralism, economic liberalism, anti-corruption. Despite such policies, the president has failed to tackle corruption and religious intolerance in his government.
Prospects: After winning the previous general election, the Democratic Party will now likely finish outside the top three but still in the top five.
8. National Mandate Party (PAN – Partai Amanat Nasional)
Leader: Hatta Rajasa (since 2010)
Founded: 23 August 1998
% Votes in 2009 Election: 6.01%
Details: PAN was founded by modernist and moderate Muslim leader Amien Rais, who positioned himself as the figurehead of the pro-democracy movement that ousted Soeharto in May 1998. The party appealed to Muslim intellectuals, as Amien headed the country's second-largest mass Muslim organization, Muhammadiyah. In 2004, he ran for the presidency and came fourth out of five candidates. He then resigned from the leadership of PAN but remains chairman of its advisory board.
PAN suffered a rift over who to support in the 2009 presidential election. Then-chairman Sutrisno Bachir favored Prabowo Subianto, whereas Amien wanted the party to support Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Sutrisno was then replaced by Hatta Rajasa, who is now chief economics minister. Hatta's daughter Siti Ruby Aliya is married to SBY's youngest son.
Hatta's image suffered in 2013 when his son Rasyid killed two people while driving a BMW at high speed in Jakarta in the early hours of New Year's Day. Hatta paid big money to the families of the victims and Rasyid got off lightly with six months of probation. The BMW, worth about $120,000 was owned by Hatta but not listed in his assets declaration. He never explained how he managed to afford it on his official monthly salary of about Rp20 million (including bonuses). The scandal cemented the widely held public perception that wealthy politicians are treated leniently by the corrupt judiciary.
Support Base: Urban, middle-class Muslims, especially intellectuals and moderates. Also appeals to some Christians and enjoys moderate levels of support across the country. Most parties in Indonesia are painted either as Islamic or secular. PAN positions itself as neither, being open to all.
Policies: Pluralism, entrepreneurship funding and training, regional development. Open social market economy with state intervention. Opposes resolving past human rights cases.
Prospects: Fair. PAN has no chance of winning, but it could finish fifth, especially as it is expected to pick up former supporters of the corruption-tainted PKS.
9. United Development Party (PPP – Partai Persatuan Pembangunan)
Leader: Suryadharma Ali (since 2007)
Founded: 5 January 1973
% Votes in 2009 election: 5.32%
Details: One of only three permitted parties under the Soeharto regime, PPP was the result of a forced merger between several Islamic parties. After Soeharto's fall, the party in 1998 changed its ideology from Pancasila to Islam. PPP's political zenith was when its former leader Hamzah Haz served as vice president under Megawati Soekarnoputri from 2001-2004. Hamzah had previously declared that no woman was fit to serve as president. When no one wanted him as a vice presidential candidate in 2004, he made an embarrassing run for the presidency and won 3% of the vote.
PPP has taken an increasingly hardline stance on many issues. Notably, Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali has refused to protect minority religious groups. He has praised extremist Islamic groups that take the law into their own hands. There have been a series of corruption scandals at the ministry under Suryadharma's leadership but he has not been prosecuted. The party tried to nominate a member of the violent Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) as a candidate for this year's elections, but the nomination failed to meet requirements set by the KPU.
Presidential candidate: PPP is expected to nominate Suryadharma Ali. Keen to avoid a repeat of the fiasco that was Hamzah Haz's ill-fated presidential bid, PPP has said it will wait until after the general election before it decides on whether to field a candidate.
Support base: Conservative, old-school Muslims.
Policies: Intolerance of religious minorities. The party has toned down its calls to make sharia law compulsory. Strongly opposes distribution of condoms to combat HIV/AIDS.
Prospects: Weak. Seeking to form an Islamic coalition bloc with other Muslim parties: PAN, PKS, PKB and PBB. Such a bloc could be appealing to voters but it would need to find a unifying figure as a presidential candidate.
10. People's Conscience Party (Hanura – Hati Nurani Rakyat)
Leader: Wiranto (since 2006)
Founded: 14 November 2006
% Votes in 2009 Election: 3.03%
Details: Former military commander Wiranto was once touted as a possible future president for his handling of events surrounding Indonesia's transition to democracy over 1998-99. He was fired as chief security minister in 2000 after he was deemed responsible for human rights abuses during East Timor's 1999 independence referendum. He has also been accused by some of having a hand in the 1998 mass riots in Jakarta and in later cases of counterfeiting.
Wiranto was selected as Golkar's candidate for the 2004 presidential election and eliminated in the first round with only 22% of the vote. He and his old military friends formed Hanura at the end of 2006. In 2009, he stood as Jusuf Kalla's running mate in the presidential election. The pair won just 12% of the vote. Hanura's fortunes received a boost in 2013 when media magnate Hary Tanoesoedibjo joined the party.
Presidential candidate: Wiranto, with Hary Tanoesoedibjo for vice president. Wiranto has seized on the urban myth that Abraham Lincoln suffered numerous defeats before becoming US president. He modestly says: "If Abraham Lincoln failed many times and never gave up, but finally became a great president of America, why should I, who just failed twice, give up?"
Support base: Moderate levels of support across the country. Ten small parties that were deemed ineligible to contest the 2014 election have joined forces with Hanura.
Policies: Pluralism, social welfare, free education and affordable healthcare. No plans to bring old generals to trial for alleged rights abuses.
Prospects: Possible dark horse, albeit a lame one. Hary Tanoesoedibjo's media empire may bolster Hanura's popularity, but the thoughtful Wiranto lacks the boisterous charisma and popularity of fellow ex-general Prabowo Subianto.
Media associations: MNC Group. Includes RCTI, MNCTV, Global TV, Sindo TV, Top TV, Seputar Indonesia, Trust, MNC Radio, Okezone.com.
Hey, What Happened to Numbers 11, 12 & 13?
In January 2013, only 10 parties were deemed eligible for the 2014 election and they were each given a number from 1 to 10, denoting the order in which they would appear on ballot sheets. In semi-autonomous Aceh province, three local parties were approved to contest the election and numbered 11 to 13. Fifteen parties that failed to qualify for the general election filed objections. Two of them were subsequently approved, PBB and PKPI, hence they were numbered 14 and 15.
14. Crescent Star Party (PBB - Partai Bulan Bintang)
Leader: M.S. Kaban (since 2005)
Founded: 17 Juli 1998
% Votes in 2009 election: 1.78%
Details: PBB has its roots in Masyumi, which was the biggest Islamic party under founding president Soekarno until he banned it in 1960 after some its leaders supported an Army rebellion against him. Under the Soeharto regime, Masyumi was briefly resurrected under a new name, Parmusi, only to be forced to merge into into the sole Muslim party, the PPP.
After Soeharto's fall, Masyumi was again resurrected, but organizers opted for a new name to avoid the stigma of the old one. The party's founder was Soeharto's former speech writer Yusril Ihza Mahendra, a lawyer who later served as justice minister under Megawati Soekarnoputri.
Tourists irked by paying $25 for previously free visas on arrival to enter Indonesia can thank Yusril for pushing that one through.
Yusril has amassed considerable wealth, some of it through his acquisitions of antiques and sunken treasure. He has a strong network within the judiciary. When the General Elections Commission (KPU) and then the General Elections Supervisory Commission (Bawaslu) deemed PBB ineligible to contest the 2014 elections, the party filed an appeal to the State Administrative High Court. No one was surprised when the court ordered the KPU to allow PBB to join the elections. KPU could have appealed the decision at the Supreme Court but decided not to bother.
PBB in 2013 recruited Susno Duadji, a retired police commissioner general serving a three-and-a-half year jail sentence for taking bribes and misusing election security funds. He claimed he joined the party because of its campaign to “combat corruption the Islamic way”.
M.S. Kaban, who was forestry minister from 2004-2009, is banned from leaving the country pending a corruption investigation into the Forestry Ministry's procurement of an integrated radio communications system.
Presidential candidate: Yusril Ihza Mahendra
Support base: Radical Muslims and some corruption felons.
Policies: Islamic law.
Prospects: Abysmal. The party started promisingly in 1998 on a platform for reforms and a greater role for Islam, but has suffered in-fighting and corruption allegations.
15. Indonesian Justice and Unity Party (PKPI - Partai Keadilan dan Persatuan Indonesia)
Founded: 15 January 1999 (as PKP, in 2002 became PKPI)
% Votes in 2009 election: 0.9%
Details: Barely made it onto the list of eligible parties for 2014. Was initially deemed ineligible but that decision was overturned by the General Elections Supervisory Commission (Bawaslu).
PKP was founded by retired general Edi Sudrajat after his failure in 1998 to take over the leadership of Golkar. He assembled a group of former generals and ministers who did want to remain part of Golkar, which they claimed was not doing enough to combat corruption, poverty and injustice. They also felt Golkar was losing its secular roots. After Sudrajat's death in 2006, PKPI was led by Meutia Hatta, the eldest daughter of Indonesia's founding vice president Muhammad Hatta. In 2010, former vice president and military chief Try Sutrisno was appointed chairman of the party's advisory board, while former Jakarta governor Sutiyoso (also a retired general) was appointed party leader. In October 2013, Sutiyoso was sentenced to two months probation and fined Rp 1 million for illegal campaigning.
Sutiyoso served as Jakarta governor for 10 years from 1997 to 2007 and failed to seriously combat corruption or develop good urban planning. He did introduce the city's busway system.
Support base: Small and scattered. Limited to areas where the party's retired generals have strong networks.
Policies: Pluralism and national unity. Continue the ideals of the struggle for independence based on Pancasila and the 1945 Constitution.
Prospects: Poor. The party is viewed as a grouping of old generals lacking fresh blood. In terms of popularity, PKPI is a minnow. In 1999, it won six seats in the House of Representatives. In 2004, it won one seat. In 2009, it won zero seats. It's possible that Sutiyoso's wealth may lift the party's performance.