The study of party coalitions largely focuses on national elections in western democracies. How are coalitions formed in political systems in which competition occurs on a clientelistic rather than programmatic foundation? To examine coalition formation outside the context of western party systems, we study pre-electoral coalitions formed in subnational executive government elections in Indonesia. Using a unique dataset of 5048 such coalitions in combination with fieldwork conducted in several provinces, we analyze coalition patterns. In contrast to conventional ideological and office-seeking explanations we find that, at least until recently, in forming coalitions parties regularly prioritized immediate pay-offs from candidates â€“ which mostly come in the form of cash payments â€“ over longer-term office and patronage benefits. Attributing this finding to the limited influence that parties exert over politicians once they are elected in regional Indonesia, we highlight the interaction between coalition formation and the incentives that politicians have once in office.