by Francis Chan
JAKARTA (The Straits Times/ANN) - Things seem to be looking good for Indonesian President Joko Widodo ahead of his re-election campaign, which should kick off on Sept 23.
His approval ratings have been on the rise, with the latest survey on Jan 2 showing more than 53 per cent of respondents wanting him to stay in office for a second term. Only 18.5 per cent of the 1,220 surveyed wanted his closest rival, former army general and opposition chief Prabowo Subianto, as head of state.
Most of the parties in Mr Joko's corner, such as Golkar, NasDem and Hanura, have indicated that they will back him in next year's election.
He has also made key appointments recently aimed at strengthening his position for the race.
The only blip on the horizon is that the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P), which nominated him for the presidency in 2014, has yet to say if it will do so again. The President, who ran and won on the PDI-P ticket, remains a political outlier and does not automatically command the party's unconditional support.
But he seems to have succeeded in increasing his bargaining power with the PDI-P when he named Golkar secretary-general Idrus Marham as Social Affairs Minister at last week's Cabinet reshuffle.
As the second largest party after the PDI-P, the appointment all but guaranteed Golkar's support for Mr Joko's re-election bid.
What's left now is who his running mate will be - which itself is another strong bargaining chip.
So, in the likely event of a two-way fight between Mr Joko and Mr Prabowo, the opportunity to be the former's vice-president is expected to go to someone whose name on the ballot can help tilt the balance of votes in favour of the incumbent.
The jockeying has begun, with various factions from both camps trying to build alliances for, or against, the President. The question is whether he will make the right choice, and beat his rivals in picking a running mate who will give him the edge to win big.