Indonesian President Joko and rival Prabowo urged to meet to ease tensions

Indonesia's presidential candidate Joko Widodo shakes hands with his opponent Prabowo Subianto after a televised debate in Jakarta, on March 30, 2019.
Indonesia's presidential candidate Joko Widodo shakes hands with his opponent Prabowo Subianto after a televised debate in Jakarta, on March 30, 2019.PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA (THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Calls have been mounting for incumbent Indonesian President Joko Widodo and rival Prabowo Subianto to immediately hold a one-on-one meeting and ease tensions between the two camps, as concerns abound over the potential for post-election conflict.

Vice-President Jusuf Kalla and a number of prominent Muslim figures are the latest to echo the calls, saying that a reconciliation between the two rivals is necessary to defuse tensions among their respective supporters at the grassroots.

Mr Kalla gathered with leaders of the largest Muslim organisations in the country at his residence on Monday evening (April 22). They discussed the recent presidential and legislative elections and the ongoing process of final vote counting at the General Elections Commission (KPU).

The meeting was held on the heels of Mr Prabowo's declaration of victory, despite quick-count results showing Mr Joko - more popularly known as Jokowi - being re-elected to the presidency, causing the two rival camps to trade barbs over the legitimacy of the count and the ultimate result of the election.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Kalla said the participants in the gathering expected the presidential rivals to immediately patch things up because they alone had the leverage to ease the tensions in society.

"We believe that Pak Jokowi should meet with Pak Prabowo. The sooner the better," Mr Kalla said after the meeting, "It's important because if the elite figures are united, the grassroots will also unite."

Mr Jimly Asshiddiqie, the chairman of the Indonesian Muslim Intellectuals Association (ICMI), concurred with Mr Kalla as he spoke about his concerns over the claims of victory while the KPU has yet to announce the official vote tally and winners of the election.


He encouraged Mr Prabowo and Mr Joko to immediately engage in a rather informal meeting, where they might just have coffee together without even having to talk politics at all.

"The meeting need not be too long... but it would give the signal for all Indonesians that there is no problem between the two figures," Mr Jimly said, adding that it would have a positive impact on the grassroots too.

Attempts to reduce tensions between the two rivals have been underway, with the incumbent assigning his close aide, Mr Luhut Pandjaitan, as an envoy to open communications with the former general.

Mr Joko said he had particularly appointed Mr Luhut to discuss with Mr Prabowo about a possible meeting between them. While the plan has not yet been finalised, Mr Joko said he looked forward to meeting his rival for "the good of the nation".

Mr Hinca Panjaitan, the secretary-general of the Democratic Party, which is a member of Mr Prabowo's coalition, welcomed the suggestion, though he stopped short of elaborating on when the meeting between the two might take place.

Since the election concluded last week, prominent figures, such as Mr Joko's running mate Ma'ruf Amin and Nahdlatul Ulama executive Zainut Tauhid, have called for Indonesians to end divisions among them, based on who they supported in the election, and reconcile with one another.

Muhammadiyah chairman Haedar Nashir said the two candidates' campaign teams, political parties in each coalition and other prominent figures, as well as religious organisations should also gather and promote reconciliation.

"We believe that the majority of people and public figures in this country want the election to conclude successfully... and the only way is to act in accordance with the Constitution to settle any dispute," he said.

Mr Haedar said he expected any reports of alleged electoral violations to be taken up with the Elections Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu) while election disputes should be filed with the Constitutional Court.

"We hope that everyone will wait patiently for the (election result) on May 22 without inciting any violence or discord," Mr Kalla added.