Presidential hopeful Puan trying to use Ganjar to reverse her negative public image

Source – January 23, 2023
Pranowo (right) meets Maharani (left) at Adi Soemarmo Airport in Solo – November 12, 2022 (Pemprov Jateng)

Jakarta – The chairperson of the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle's (PDI-P) Central Leadership Board, Puan Maharani, has again become the become the focus of public attention.

The public became interested after Maharani's public display of friendship with PDI-P member and Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo at Nahdlatul Ulama's (NU) 2023 Sports and Art Week (Porseni) in the Central Java city of Solo on Sunday January 22.

The moment of intimacy seemed to undermine rumors that Maharani does not have a harmonious relationship with the Central Java governor because they were allegedly fighting over the presidential ticket for the 2024 presidential nomination.

On the other hand, some see the increasingly harmonious relationship between the two as a self-evaluation strategy by Maharani to address the negative public perceptions that have stuck to her.

Distant relationship

It no public secret that the relationship between Maharani and Pranowo has been distant. In May 2021 for example, Pranowo was not invited to the PDI-P's 48th anniversary held at the Marhaen House in Semarang, Central Java.

Maharani, who attended the event, gave a speech about leading figures who only like to appear on social media. She said that it is inappropriate for figures like that to be nominated as a presidential candidate.

"I think that a leader, is a leader who is actually out in the field and not [just] on sosmed (social media)", said Maharani on January 22.

Although she did not explicitly mention his name, not a few saw the insinuation as being directed at Pranowo. Maharani made a similar statement before thousands of PDI-P member in Wonogiri regency, Central Java, in April 2022.

Although once again she did not mention the figure being referred to, Maharani asked the PDI-P members to be selective in choosing a presidential candidate and not pick a figure who only like to appear on social media.

Beginning to thaw

Following rumours of a disharmonious relationship between the two, the hot and cold relationship between Maharani and Pranowo began to slowly thaw.

In late November 2022 for example, Pranowo picked up Maharani at the Adi Soemarmo Airport in Solo.

The pair then attended the XVII Young Indonesian Entrepreneurs Association (HIPMI) National Meeting (Munas) in Solo on Monday September 21.

During the event, Maharani and Pranowo laughed heartedly when they were both mentioned as presidential candidates by Investment Minister Bahlil Lahadalia.

"Today, Bapak [Mr] President, I am shaking. There are two issues about the presidential candidates, Mbak [Sister] Puan and Pak [Mr] Ganjar", said Lahadalia in front of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, Maharani, Pranowo and the other invited guests.

The public also responded positively to the apparent closeness between Maharani and Pranowo.

Growing closer

Most recently, Maharani and Pranowo again demonstrated their closeness at the NU's Porseni event in Solo last Sunday.

This situation is seen as being unusual after their pair were rumored to have become distant as a consequence of the issue of who the PDI-P will be nominate as a presidential candidate for 2024.

Moreover, the moment of intimacy between the two was taken up directly by the daughter of former Indonesian president Abdurrahman Wahid, Zannuba Ariffah Chafsoh or Yenny Wahid, who also attended the event.

Chafsoh said Pranowo and Maharani chatted amicably when they were visiting the Puro Mangkunegaran area, including at the Pracima Tuin Park. "Earlier the two (Pranowo and Maharani) were intimate", said Chafsoh as quoted by on Sunday.

Chafsoh admitted to being happy with the intimacy and closeness shown by the pair in the lead up to the 2024 elections. This is because the intimacy that was shown could create a more peaceful political atmosphere in Indonesia.

"I'm happy that the political elite are intimate, this will of course trickle down to the community, the atmosphere will become cooler", said Chafsoh.

Maharani has in the past denied that her relationship with Pranowo was distant, saying she has no problems whatsoever with Pranowo who ipso facto is also a PDI-P member.

"Yeah, there aren’t any problems (there's no distance with Pranowo), we're both members [of the PDI-P]", said Maharani during a Rosi on Kompas TV program on Saturday January 14.

Maharani even recollected the sweet moment when together with PDI-P members she helped Pranowo win the Central Java governorship in 2013.

During the Central Java election of regional heads at that time, Maharani was chairperson of Pranowo and his running mate Heru Sudjatmoko's election campaign team, who went on to win the election garnering 6,962,417 votes or 48.82 percent of the legitimate vote.

During the election, Maharani believes that the PDI-P members showed their solidarity in ensuring a victory for Pranowo.

"Do you remember, before, right, I was the chair of Mas [Brother] Ganjar's election campaign team in Central Java. We were solid, we were able to win in Central Java, we were able to ensure victory for Mas Ganjar to become governor", said Maharani.

Negative perception

Al Azhar University political observer Ujang Komaruddin believes that Maharani is in the midst of launching a strategy of self-evaluation in order to improve the public's negative perception of her so she can complete in the 2024 elections.

According to Komaruddin, this has been apparent since Maharani began repairing her repairing with Pranowo.

Related to this, Maharani has also made a public apology over the issue of her sullen manner when she was handing out T-shirts to local people in Bekasi, West Java, in September 2022. Maharani made the apology during a Rosi on Kompas TV program not long ago.

Komaruddin said that the public reconciliation with Pranowo and the apology show that Maharani has begun to try and repair her image.

"Like it or not, the two moments when she met with Ganjar, as well as apologising for always being sullen, it had to be done. Because that's one way to get public sympathy", Komaruddin told on Monday January 23.

He said that the way that Maharani is trying to improve the public's perception is quite legitimate. According to Komaruddin the positive approach being used by Maharani will have a positive result also.

"Positive things can also produce positive results", he explained. "Bit by bit the public's mindset will change, their perception could change if in the future Puan consistently [creates a] narrative that she is a politician who is humble, kind, modest, populist and empathetic to the public", he added.

-- Written by Solo contributor Fristin Intan Sulistyowati, edited by Khairina,

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Puan Kian Akrab dengan Ganjar, Strategi Perbaiki Persepsi Negatif Publik?".]