By Astudestra Ajengrastri and Erric Permana
Next year’s presidential election in Indonesia will be the second battle for President Joko Widodo and rival candidate Prabowo Subianto after their tough contest in the 2014 election which Widodo and his then-running mate Jusuf Kalla ended up winning.
The country's General Elections Commission (KPU) closed the registry for the 2019 presidential election on Friday as the two alliances scrambled to find running mates for their candidacy.
On Thursday afternoon, Mahfud MD, former Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court, was reportedly being considered to accompany Widodo, also known as Jokowi, as his running mate.
Both seemed ready to declare the candidacy -- even matching their style with white shirts -- as Mahfud waited for an official announcement. But the decision changed only in a matter of minutes.
Jokowi along with all chairmen and secretary generals of Indonesia Working Alliance -- a ruling coalition of nine political parties who supported the incumbent president – reportedly received threats from some of the parties who opposed Mahfud’s candidacy.
The Nation Awakening Party (PKB), a member of the alliance, was reportedly the most vocal. PKB chairman Muhaimin Iskandar has publicly stated that he was ready to become Jokowi’s running mate. Besides, PKB, which is affiliated with Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) -- one of the world's largest Muslim organizations -- has a long history of conflict with Mahfud.
To replace Mahfud, the coalition unveiled another name: Ma’ruf Amin, chairman of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) and advisory leader of NU.
"After being approved by the parties’ coalition, I have decided that my vice president candidate for 2019-2024 is Ma'ruf Amin," said the president during a news conference later that afternoon, along with the chairman and secretary general of the governing coalition.
Meanwhile, Mahfud was seen leaving the scene from another door.
In the aftermath of this event, a member of the alliance, Chairman of the National Development Party (PPP) Romahurmuzy denied the report but admitted that some turmoil happened inside the coalition.
“There was a very strong temptation to form a third axis, but with good communication, all can be reconstituted,” said Romahurmuzy to Anadolu Agency.
Drama and maneuvering also happened within the opposition camp. For quite some time, the favorite pairing from this coalition was Subianto and Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, the eldest son of former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono from the Democratic Party.
But days before the expected declaration, the two parties cracked down, with a series of harsh tweets from its politicians.
“[…] Prabowo respects money more than our struggle,” Andi Arief, a politician from the Democratic Party, tweeted on Wednesday.
The remarks apparently referred to Prabowo’s decision to ditch Yudhoyono’s candidacy and replace him with Sandiaga Uno, a businessman-turned-politician from Gerindra, Subianto’s own political party.
On late Thursday night, Subianto and Uno declared their candidacy at Subianto’s residence, leaving the fate of Democratic Party’s alliance unknown until the next morning.
Cleric vs businessman
President Joko Widodo's running-mate Amin, 75, is a prominent Muslim figure.
He was born in Banten on March 11, 1943. He is currently chairman of MUI, the country’s clerical body comprising all registered Muslim organizations, including NU and Muhammadiyah.
He was also appointed as the Rais Aam (supervisory board leader) of NU in 2015, probably the reason why PKB offered his name as VP candidate.
Amin is not a new face for politics as he was the key member of the Presidential Advisory Council (Watimpres) during Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono administration from 2001-2014.
As MUI chairman, he supported several controversial regulations, including the Pornography Law and a decree on banning the activities of Ahmadiyah minority group.
He gained great support from religious groups after recommending a fatwa on blasphemy against Islam.
Uno, the VP candidate for the opposition, was born in Pekanbaru, Riau, on June 28, 1969.
Prior to his political career, Uno was known as an entrepreneur and a managing director of several companies.
He earned his Master of Business Administration in 1992 from the George Washington University and a Bachelor of Business Administration in 1990 from Wichita State University, Kansas, U.S.
Jakarta’s 2017 governor election was his first debut in the political field.
He serves as the deputy chairperson of the board of trustees in Gerindra party -- a post which he must give up in order to be the running mate of the party’s leader in the upcoming election.