2024/36 “The Aftermath of the 2024 Indonesian Elections: A Season for Speculation” by Max Lane

Indonesia’s President-elect Prabowo Subianto (L) and Vice President-elect Gibran Rakabuming Raka (R) react in front of the portrait of Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo after the plenary meeting of the General Elections Commission (KPU) announcing the 2024 presidential election at the KPU office in Jakarta on 24 April 2024. (Photo by Yasuyoshi CHIBA / AFP).


  • The course of the 2024 Presidential and Parliamentary elections confirmed the absence of substantive ideological differences among all the parties, despite rhetorical positioning by candidates.
  • Since the elections, there has been constant speculation about how the political parties and figures would relate to each other after the elections, especially about which parties would join the governing parties and when.
  • One focus of speculation has been about how the relationship between incumbent President Joko Widodo and incoming President-elect Prabowo Subianto will evolve after Prabowo is sworn in in October.
  • The second focus has been around the relationship between Prabowo and the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP) and whether the PDIP would join the Prabowo government.
  • Apart from the relationships among these parties, the criticisms from a spectrum of elements in civil society of manoeuvres by President Widodo to build a political dynasty and of Prabowo’s campaign will be a factor in how parties, especially the PDIP, relate to the new government. Tensions between the mainstream parties and civil society may sharpen.

*Max Lane is Visiting Senior Fellow at ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute. He is the author of “An Introduction to the Politics of the Indonesian Union Movement” (ISEAS 2019) and the editor of “Continuity and Change after Indonesia’s Reforms: Contributions to an Ongoing Assessment” (ISEAS 2019). His newest book is “Indonesia Out of Exile: How Pramoedya’s Buru Quartet Killed a Dictatorship”, (Penguin Random House, 2022).

ISEAS Perspective 2024/36, 20 May 2024

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There are two major ways in which the 2024 elections can be assessed. First are the relations between factions of the political elite, including the prospects for stability among that elite. Second are the relations between that elite as a whole, represented by all the parliamentary parties, and that section of politically active Indonesia outside the parties, referred to as “Masyarakat sipil” (“Civil Society”). At the moment, it can be noted that the most widespread political activity is speculation, even as more and more political actors firm up their decisions.

The contestation that took place in the 2024 elections was among rival factions within the broad Indonesian elite. Every coalition of parties nominating Presidential candidates included parties participating in the current Joko Widodo government. The two parties outside the Widodo government, Democrat Party (PD) and the Party of Justice and Welfare (PKS), had voted with the government on most occasions. Now they found themselves in coalitions alongside parties of the government. There were no outsiders among any of the parties supporting Presidential candidates.

Among the presidential candidates themselves, Anies Baswedan was not a party member. In the past he had sought collaboration with the PD, the Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP), and was supported for the Governorship of Jakarta by the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) and the PKS.

The election, including the process that will stretch to include the election of regional executives in November this year, is about settling any new arrangements among the various factions of the elite, represented by the different parties. While there was the rhetorical positioning of continuity versus “change” among the contending coalitions, there were no substantive ideological, programmatic or policy disputes affecting the basic direction of future government policy during the elections. Two of the three parties whose candidate positioned himself to be for “change”, have now joined Prabowo’s coalition for “continuity”. It was the relationship between the factions that is of major concern to the participants. However, significant tension has emerged around how this internal rivalry should be conducted. There were criticisms, from within the elite as well as from without, over the political manoeuvres of the incumbent, Joko Widodo, to ensure that his son, Gibran Rakabuming Raka could stand as Prabowo’s Vice-Presidential candidate, and also over Widodo’s use of social welfare funding for last minute pork-barrelling. These tensions, which are ongoing, may have an impact on how negotiations to manage the internal rivalries will be conducted. However, a few things are already clear.


First of all, Prabowo Subianto as head of state and head of government will have the prerogative to appoint cabinet ministers and a host of other positions in the state apparatus, including those relating to state owned enterprises. Prabowo has repeatedly declared his support for Widodo’s policies in government, including since the election.[1] There have been no statements by Prabowo or his party, Gerindra, that suggest any divergence from the policies pursued for 10 years by President Widodo. This is not to say we will not see attempts by Prabowo to stamp his government with his own imprint as his installation as President nears.[2]

The most speculated rivalry in the Indonesian media is that between Prabowo and President Widodo himself. Some ask: will there be ‘dua matahari (two suns)’?[3] Speculation over whether there is rivalry or accord between Prabowo and Widodo is rampant in the media. How many times they meet, what their associates say on any one day – all these and other minor incidents are reported widely, with multiple interpretations.[4]

In the meantime, Prabowo remains President Widodo’s Minister for Defence, while also operating as the President-elect. In effect combining these roles, Prabowo visited Beijing and met Xi Jinping, then the Prime Minister of Japan, Fumio Kishida, and then the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Anwar Ibrahim.[5] This has been interpreted both as a possible reassertion of his closeness with President Widodo[6] — and Prabowo has claimed that his visit was arranged by Widodo — as well as something connected to a possible Beijing attempt to pre-empt US moves to get close to Prabowo.[7] It can also be read as an initial assertion of Prabowo’s own international profile.

There has also been speculation on what Widodo’s role might be after Prabowo is sworn in as president. The most common relates to Widodo’s role in selecting Ministers for Prabowo’s cabinet. Widodo’s spokesperson continually affirms that the appointment of cabinet Ministers will be fully Prabowo’s prerogative, despite the media speculation,[8] which continues non-stop.[9] Spokespersons from Prabowo’s party, Gerindra, have themselves said that Prabowo would seek Widodo’s suggestions on cabinet membership.[10] Commentary on the existence of “two suns” shining in the current Widodo cabinet is bound to continue,[11] right up till October.

There has also been other public commentary on Widodo’s position. There was a flurry of statements regarding how the Golkar leadership had encouraged Widodo to join Golkar and make it part of his base.[12] His son, future vice-president Gibran, has also been encouraged to join Golkar.[13] Others, such as the former PDIP figure turned Prabowo supporter, Budiman Sujatmiko, have suggested that Widodo could be Advisor to President Prabowo.[14]

Perhaps more substantially, there is also discussion of whether, or to what degree, Widodo will be able to place his supporters in key positions during the election of Province and District heads scheduled for November. Many current incumbents are his direct appointees, leading to more speculation that these appointments are a manoeuvre to place Widodo dynasty supporters, including family members, in important positions after his departure.[15]


The largest party in the parliament will remain the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP), although its vote, at 16%, is down on its voter support in 2019. Megawati remains the unchallenged Chairman of PDIP. Speculation over what relationship may or may not be possible between Prabowo and Megawati (and the PDIP), is also rife. The central question is whether the PDIP will join the Prabowo government or remain outside it. It looks likely now, although as yet nothing is completely clear, that Prabowo will be supported by a majority in parliament even without PDIP support. Prabowo is definitely supported by Gerindra, Golkar, National Mandate Party (PAN) and the Democrat party. The National Democrat Party has joined the Prabowo coalition. There is ongoing debate in the National Awakening Party (PKB) over whether it should join the Prabowo government but a final decision has not yet been made by the highest party bodies.[16] If both these parties do join, it gives Prabowo a clear majority in the DPR. These parties, currently outside the Prabowo coalition, have been delaying their final decision until after their challenges to the election results in the Constitutional Court are decided.[17] Even under these circumstances, the attitude of the PDIP will still be important to general political stability and the smooth functioning of the parliament. The relationship between Prabowo and Megawati is still considered important.

Prabowo and Megawati have collaborated politically in the past. In 2009, Prabowo was Megawati’s Vice-Presidential running mate. In 2010, when the PDIP nominated Joko Widodo for the Governorship of Jakarta, Prabowo’s party also supported Widodo, and Prabowo campaigned for Widodo. Of course, in 2014 and 2019, Prabowo stood against the PDIP’s nominee, Joko Widodo. In 2019, however, Prabowo joined Widodo’s government after Widodo won the election. At that time, the PDIP welcomed him into the government.[18] There is no history of ideological or programmatic conflict between the two.

The reason for the intense speculation is that it is assumed by most people that the relationship between Joko Widodo, whom the PDIP twice nominated for President, and Megawati has soured. Widodo is considered to have betrayed the PDIP by strongly supporting Prabowo against the PDIP’s nominee, Ganjar Pranowo, in these last elections.

The last time Megawati was betrayed by somebody – her Defence Minister before 2009, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono – no collaboration between the two of them has been possible. This latest betrayal resulted in both Ganjar Pranowo’s serious defeat and a loss of votes for the PDIP in its heartland.[19] Joko Widodo and Megawati have not met since before the election campaign started in late 2023. While speculation about the PDIP’s position once Prabowo has been sworn in as president is common, current speculation centres on when Megawati will meet Prabowo. Now, this seems unlikely before the PDIP’s legal challenge to the election results is over.[20] Such a meeting would, perhaps, indicate Megawati’s intentions.

Any tension between Prabowo and Megawati is clearly not because of ideological or policy disagreements, or because of known personal clashes. The tension arises from Prabowo’s alliance with Widodo. Possible future collaboration between Megawati and Prabowo may depend on how the relationship between Prabowo and Jokowi develops.[21] Rumours circulate that Megawati is insisting that Prabowo ditch Widodo before any such collaboration is possible.[22] The possibility of Widodo being abandoned by those around him after Prabowo becomes president has also been publicly aired by figures from the PDIP.[23]

There have also been very heated exchanges between Vice-President elect Gibran, and Hasto Kristiyanto, PDIP Secretary-General. Most recently Hasto accused Gibran, who was nominated to stand for Mayor of Solo as a PDIP member, of having often lied to the PDIP. Gibran responded that Hasto’s always negative tone “meresahkan” (created restlessness and disruption).[24] This exchange was very widely reported in the press on TV.[25] Most recently the rift was confirmed more clearly when the PDIP announced on April 25 that Jokowi Widodo and his son Gibran were no longer members of the PDIP.[26]

Prabowo himself, urging general unity,[27] has made it clear he is open to any and all of the parties in parliament joining his government.[28] There are indications that he would welcome all the parties, including the PKS, PPP and PKB into the government, as well as the PDIP. With no serious differences in programme or ideology, tensions had been primarily created by changes in tactical alliances as intra-elite rivalry intensified during the election period. In this, Prabowo’s tactical allegiance to Joko Widodo is now the key factor.


There is a potential additional dynamic that may operate after this election. The change in alliance by Widodo, from an alliance with his nominating party (PDIP), to an alliance with Prabowo against the PDIP took a form that also attracted intense and broad criticism from civil society – the social opposition.[29] The criticisms relate to Widodo’s use of his incumbency, and of his family connections at the top of the Constitutional Court, to change rules that allowed Gibran to stand as Prabowo’s candidate for Vice-President. The criticism also extends to the huge allocation of social welfare payouts in the final weeks of the campaign, and of intimidation during the distribution of these payouts, in money and in rice.

A range of human rights and social justice non-government organisations has criticised the government. Additionally, in a very unusual process, groups of university professors have also issued highly condemnatory statements.[30] These have continued after the elections, with academics, students and lawyer groups also filing statements with the Constitutional Court regarding election irregularities.[31] A documentary produced by an NGO, called Dirty Vote, was watched by over one million people.[32] As a social opposition – that is a critical sector of society which is not presenting itself as an alternative political force – it had no serious impact during the campaign, just as it had no impact in other campaigns during the Widodo period. However, these issues have become entangled with that of the Widodo betrayal of the PDIP. The PDIP has taken a strong stand against the use of the welfare payments and associated intimidation and is presenting their complaints to the Constitutional Court. A key legal spokesperson for the PDIP is Todung Mulya Lubis. Mulya Lubis has been a central figure in the history of Indonesian civil society since the 1980s when he was Director of the Legal Aid Institute. In 2014, he was a supporter of Joko Widodo. He was later appointed as Indonesian Ambassador to Norway. His switch to support the PDIP and in particular to play a leading role in disputing the election results is reflective of the alienation certain sections of civil society feel towards Widodo.

For the PDIP to join the Prabowo government and not face a total collapse in credibility among the whole critical sector of civil society will be very difficult. For many sections of the social opposition, Megawati’s history of collaboration with Prabowo, who is accused of human rights violations in Timor Leste, of the kidnapping and disappearance of activists who opposed Suharto in his last year in power, and involvement in stirring up anti-Chinese rioting in May, 1998, is already negative. To join a Prabowo cabinet while he is still in alliance with Widodo and without Widodo being punished for dynasty building and excessive use of his powers of incumbency in the elections, would surely lead to a total collapse in credibility across the social opposition spectrum. At the same time, it is difficult to assess how important a positive relationship with civil society is to Megawati and the PDIP.

The high level of criticism of Widodo’s tactics in the elections and around dynasty building poses a dilemma not only for the PDIP but also for Anies Baswedan. Baswedan and the three parties backing him – Nasdem, PKB, PKS – never made Widodo’s dynasty building or incumbency tactics a major theme in their campaigning. Baswedan did, however, attempt to position himself to be for “Change”, even if this was vaguely articulated. Baswedan’s meet-the-people events also seemed to host discussions that more often focused on these issues. Baswedan is not part of any political party so his situation after the elections is quite fragile. If the parties that supported him in the election campaign join Prabowo’s government in October, he will be left floating. If one or more of those parties decides to stay outside the government, as with the PDIP, they will be faced with a decision as to how to relate the social opposition, to civil society.

In contemplating what, if any, relationship they may wish to pursue, they will also face the reality that while there is an overlap in criticism with civil society on the tactics Widodo has pursued, there are stark differences on many of the other issues that have been raised by the social opposition, not least Prabowo’s human rights record. Further, the social opposition – including the student sector – were the opponents which all the parties supported during Widodo’s two terms – the weakening of the KPK and the new Job Creation (Omnibus) and KUHAP laws. In fact, the issues raised across the civil society and activist spectrum stand in direct contrast to those that all the parties supported during the Widodo years.

A scenario where all of the parliamentary parties join with Prabowo will exacerbate the tension between the political establishment and the social opposition. In another where one or two parties such as the PDIP and PKS stay out of the government but remain in sync with Prabowo government’s general “continue the Jokowi programme” line, in order to just concentrate their criticism on Jokowi’s dynasty building, will probably also see tensions intensify.

The ideological gap between the parties and the social opposition has been sharpening for some time but the social opposition remaining rather impotent. The pressure on the social opposition to ‘go politik’ has been increasing since before the 2019 elections.[33] The sector of the social opposition with resources to start such a process are the trade unions. In 2019, sections of the trade unions implanted candidates in a range of parties, but with just a few winning seats in local parliaments and one in the national parliament, standing for Prabowo’s Gerindra party. In 2024, a new Labor Party (PB – Partai Buruh) stood in the elections for parliament. The PB presented itself as a vehicle for sections of society beyond union – “farmers, the urban poor, and workers in the informal sector” – to obtain representation in the electoral process.[34] It did not present itself as simply a part of the unions, but of the broader critical social sectors. It presented a standard social welfare redistributionist programme, and with a central policy plank of rejection of the Widodo Job Creation Law.[35] Its candidates came not just from the unions but from a range of grassroots-based campaign organisations as well as from social democratic-minded intellectuals.[36] Its lack of resources and experience meant that it was unable to make a serious impact. It elected no members to the national parliament and only 14 to local parliaments, the majority in Papua.[37]

While recruiting grassroots activists and intellectuals from the social opposition as candidates, it consciously abstainedfrom campaigning on the most high profile issues taken up by civil society: Prabowo’s past violations of human rights and Widodo’s dynasty building and misuse of incumbency powers.[38] It was basically silent on these issues. This abstention no doubt primarily reflected the balance of forces within the PB between those who oriented towards potential alliances with elements from within the political establishment, and those who dominate the party and trade union bureaucracies. It also reflected strong views among some activists that opposition to the Job Creation Law would be a more successful campaign than attacks on Prabowo or Jokowi.[39]

The PB won just under one million votes nationally, under 1%.[40] With that number gathered in its first try, there is little doubt that the party will continue to have a presence. Ilhamsyah, a trade union leader and the head of the PB’s Election Victory Division, stated his optimism that the PB will win members in the national parliament in 2029.[41] There may be other attempts at similar projects. Campaign coalitions of different wings of civil society, such as the Civil Society Coalition (KMS) and also Labor Movement for the People (Gebrak) among others, have also been very active since the elections.[42]

At the same time, how mainstream political actors – such as the PDIP and PKB or figures such as Anies Baswedan – decide to relate to the Prabowo government and to the social opposition, will also play a role. But until Prabowo begins his government, speculation will remain rampant.


For endnotes, please refer to the original pdf document.

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