JAKARTA (THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - It was a small reunion for former education and culture minister Anies Baswedan and former energy minister Sudirman Said when they met at Gerindra Party chairman Prabowo Subianto's South Jakarta home on Wednesday (Dec 13), just after Prabowo declared Sudirman the party's candidate for Central Java governor.
After posing for a few photographs with the other two men, Anies, who now serves as Jakarta governor, sang Sudirman's praises, calling him an extremely qualified candidate who had experience in both state-owned and private companies.
"We were also in the Cabinet together," Anies said, laughing. "Some might say we graduated early."
Prabowo then whispered something to Anies, who added: "Pak Prabowo says, 'I'm the one who benefits.'"
Surdirman had served as minister of energy and mineral resources in President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's Cabinet until he was replaced by Arcandra Tahar in July 2016. He is the second Jokowi ex-minister to run into the arms of Prabowo's opposition party; Anies was also supported by Gerindra in the recent Jakarta gubernatorial election.
Anies took the opportunity to reminisce about the start of his own candidacy, which had also been announced at Prabowo's house.
"A year ago, we gathered out there at the front door to start our struggle," he said. "Now, we are inside. Insyaallah (God willing), things will be even more energetic."
Minutes before Anies's arrival, Prabowo had officially announced Gerindra's support for Sudirman's candidacy.
"After a period of canvassing and consultation, we have decided that for Central Java, the Gerindra Party will support Sudirman Said for governor."
"This is a historical decision for me, because this is the first time I am venturing into politics," Sudirman said, wearing the white shirt, khaki pants and black peci (traditional cap) that have become Gerindra's trademark.
He added that Prabowo's leadership of the party showed his statesmanlike vision.
"After Anies and Sandi's win in Jakarta, Gerindra has once again given a spot to a capable and well-qualified outsider," he said. Anies and businessman Sandiaga Uno won the gubernatorial race in April, defeating popular Chinese politician Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, affectionately known as Ahok.
Prabowo chose Sudirman over Gerindra vice-chairman Ferry Juliantono, who had also been in the running for the nomination. Ferry said he accepted the party's decision and supported Sudirman's candidacy wholeheartedly.
"Hopefully, with the volunteer network I built as a prospective candidate, we can all work together to win the hearts of Central Java voters," he said, adding that winning in Central Java was very important for Gerindra's chances in the 2019 general election.
Anies may be a part of the strategy to win. Sudirman had participated in Anies's gubernatorial campaign and also headed the new administration's synchronisation team. He said the Jakarta governor might return the favour.
"Maybe he will campaign with us, because we have fought together for a long time, and he knows me very well," Sudirman said. "But of course, he has many responsibilities to see to in Jakarta."
Like Anies, Sudirman said that, despite wearing the party's uniform, he has not officially joined Gerindra as a cadre.
"I am a cadre of the Republic, and I can go anywhere," he said.
Sudirman has yet to pick a running mate, though several names have been put forward, including other fellow ex-minister and "early graduate" Marwan Jafar of the National Awakening Party (PKB).
"We will see, because the coalition is not fixed yet," Sudirman said. "Chemistry is important, as is integrity, capability and electability. I haven't been in Central Java in a long time, so we need someone with a strong base."
Prabowo said Gerindra had already had advanced discussions with both the National Mandate Party (PAN) and the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) about forming a coalition. Gubernatorial candidates need the support of at least 20 of 100 seats in the Central Java Legislative Council to run in the election. Gerindra currently has 11 seats, while PAN and PKS have eight and 10 seats, respectively.
The Gerindra chairman said he was very confident that Sudirman would win in Central Java, especially since the party had already achieved victory in the Jakarta gubernatorial election.
"Anies has transferred his winning energy (to Sudirman)," he said to the applause of the Gerindra cadres present.