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15 Nov 2019 11:37
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  •   Home > News > International

    How did Indonesia's Jokowi and Prabowo go from enemies to best mates?

    Diehard supporters of Indonesian Opposition Leader Prabowo Subianto were rioting in Jakarta after he lost the presidential election. Now, he's apparently joining forces with the President he sought to topple.


    A few short months ago, diehard supporters of Indonesian Opposition Leader Prabowo Subianto were rioting in Jakartaafter he lostthe presidential election.

    Mr Subianto's camp had accused the Government of "systemic" electoral fraud and urged supporters to take to the streets to oppose the official outcome at all costs.

    In the ensuing demonstrations — the capital's worst political violence in two decadesat least six people died and hundreds more were injured.

    It was the culmination of a vicious election campaign, marred by paid cyber trolls, the spread of fake news and hoaxes, and cynical mobilisation of religious sentiment.

    But just last week, Mr Subianto and the President he had sought to topple, Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, took selfies together at the presidential palace.

    Now the two are in discussions about joining forces in a coalition, which has some worried about the future of Indonesia's democracy.

    As Mr Widodo is inaugurated today, how did this about-face occur?

    Mending fences in the 'national interest'

    Mr Subianto definitively lost the April election by around 17 million votes, but the former military general — long a mainstay of the Indonesian political scene — still looms large.

    During his meeting with Mr Widodo, Mr Subianto expressed support for the President's plan to move the national capital to Borneo's East Kalimantan — a province where Mr Subianto and his brother, Hashim Djojohadikusumo, reportedly own some 220,000 hectares of land.

    Indonesian leaders have shown willingness to reach across the aisle when it comes to business deals.

    Mr Widodo's outgoing vice-president, Jusuf Kalla, told Indonesian media in February that Mr Subianto bought the land from Mr Kalla five years ago.

    "In the national interest, I believe we must unite," Mr Subianto said after meeting the President.

    "We are ready to help."

    Suprapti McLeod, a Canberra-based Indonesian citizen who worked for the Jokowi campaign in Australia, told the ABC she was disappointed in Mr Widodo for aligning himself with Mr Subianto's Gerindra Party.

    "A true democracy should have an opposition," she said, arguing that it would be better for Mr Subianto to remain in opposition.

    "If not, who else will criticise the Government?

    "We can't expect Jokowi to be the perfect President … [but] I still have hope."

    A 'super fat' ruling coalition

    Mr Widodo's Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP) is looking to build what Indonesian media has deemed a "super fat" coalition by joining forces with Gerindra and other parties that had previously formed the backbone of Indonesia's Opposition.

    PDIP chairman Ahmad Basarah told reporters this week it was "not taboo" for parties who ran against Mr Widodo to now join his coalition.

    This would leave only the conservative, Islam-based Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) in opposition— andthey hold only50 out of 575 seats in Indonesia's house of representatives.

    Mardani Ali Sera, a PKS MP, told the ABC that while Gerindra and other former allies had a right to align with PDIP, remaining in opposition was "noble and important for the maintenance of democracy".

    "Our hopes and prayers have always been in favour of the continued health of democracy," he said.

    Amrih Widodo, a lecturer at the Australian National University, said Gerindra's entry into the ruling coalition would be both "strange and historic".

    Indonesia is still living with a legacy of oligarchy and corruption left by Suharto's New Order regime, he added.

    Jokowi builds a political dynasty

    Mr Widodo's PDIP has been led by former president Megawati Soekarnoputri since she founded the party in the 1990s.

    Ms Soekarnoputri is the daughter of Indonesia's founding father, Sukarno.

    Her daughter, Puan Maharani, is the new speaker of the Indonesian House of Representatives, while her son, Pranada Prabowo, has been tipped to enter Mr Widodo's cabinet.

    Meanwhile, thePDIP is building another political dynasty out of Mr Widodo's family.

    Mr Widodo's 32-year-old son, Gibran Rakabuming Raka, recently joined the party and announced his intention to run for mayor of Solo — a post formerly held by his dad.

    President Jokowi has been dragged into the "vortex of the power and elites", Titi Anggraini, a veteran election observer, told the ABC.

    "Our system still allows good people to dissolve in the vortex of power," she said.

    Last month, an independent watchdog noted 48 members of Indonesia's new Parliament were children, spouses and siblings of sitting mayors, governors and provincial legislators from across Indonesia.

    Reports also suggest that establishment politicians are seeking to revive a Suharto-era measure that would ditch direct presidential elections, concentrating even more power within the legislature.

    "The next five years will be hard for Indonesia," said Dandhy Laksono, a filmmaker who was recently arrested for tweeting about unrest in West Papua.

    He said if the changes go ahead, "Indonesia's direction will be decided by only a handful of elites who have failed to represent the public interest over the last two decades".

    Outgoing chairman of Indonesia's Upper House, Zulkifli Hasan, said this week he endorsed "limited amendments" to the constitution along these lines, like what existsin China and Singapore's authoritarian political systems.

    "[The changes] are philosophical and ideological, envisioning the future of Indonesia for the next 100 years," he said.

    'Oligarchy will run wild', corruption watchdog says

    Some are worried that these alliances could lead to more rampant corruption and the passage of a slew of controversial reforms.

    Under Mr Widodo's watch, Indonesia's highly respected national anti-corruption commission, known by its Indonesian acronym KPK, has been rendered a toothless tiger by Parliament.

    "In the first period, [Mr Widodo] did not have a strong commitment to fighting corruption," Egi Primayogha, a researcher from Indonesia Corruption Watch, told the ABC.

    "Now with the KPK dead, the situation will only get worse. He will only serve the interests of the oligarchs.

    "Without the KPK, the oligarchy will run wild."

    Proposed changes to the criminal code, meanwhile, would introduce a raft of draconian measures including criminalising "insulting the honour" of the President and distributing information about contraception.

    These developments provoked the largest student protests in two decades in cities across Indonesia.

    But Mr Widodo, his Government and parliamentarians appear unfazed.

    Mr Widodo's selection of Ma'ruf Amin — a 76-year-old conservative Islamic scholar with no prior political experience — as his running mate was criticised by many liberal Indonesians.

    Prior to being inaugurated as Vice-President, Mr Amin wrote to Parliament demanding they immediately pass reforms to criminalise pre-marital sex, including same-sex relations.

    He also called for the legislature to reject a landmark anti-sexual violence bill that had previously enjoyed bipartisan support.

    For campaigner Ms McLeod, such steps were an incursion on personal freedoms.

    "Our Government needs to stay away from private matters," Ms McLeod said.

    "Jokowi should really focus on good governance and listen to the voice of people."

    © 2019 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved


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