Jokowi and Prabowo seek peace post-election

Indonesian presidential candidates meet for first time since April polls - at MRT in Jakarta

President Joko Widodo (right) with retired army general and defeated presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto during their 18-minute ride on the country's first MRT line in Jakarta yesterday.
President Joko Widodo (right) with retired army general and defeated presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto during their 18-minute ride on the country's first MRT line in Jakarta yesterday. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Indonesia's President Joko Widodo and defeated presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto shook hands and hugged each other warmly in a widely anticipated meeting yesterday, their first since a bitterly contested presidential election in April.

They met at Lebak Bulus MRT station in South Jakarta around 10am before boarding the train heading to Central Jakarta.

During their 18-minute ride on the country's first MRT line, the former rivals chatted privately in a car.

They got off at the Senayan MRT station, where a crowd of journalists were waiting.

Mr Joko told them the meeting, which he described as "an encounter with a friend", had been planned for a long time, but delayed because of their busy schedules.

"Alhamdulillah (thanks to God), this morning we met and rode on the MRT because I know Pak Prabowo has not tried it," he said.

The meeting took place more than two weeks after the Constitutional Court upheld the presidential election results announced in May, which had been challenged by Mr Prabowo, a retired army general. Protests after the results were announced on May 21 later turned violent, leaving nine people dead.

Yesterday, Mr Joko urged supporters from both camps to unite for the sake of the nation.

"There are no more cebong (tadpoles) and kampret (little bats). There's only (the national emblem) Garuda Pancasila," he said, referring to his and Mr Prabowo's supporters respectively.

When Mr Prabowo took his turn, he explained why he had yet to congratulate the President on his victory, saying he believes in good manners.

"I want to do it directly, face to face. So I congratulate you, Pak," he said, as he shook Mr Joko's hands.

He stressed that both men are friends but competed with each other due to the "demands of politics and democracy".

Joking that Mr Joko, 58, would soon have more grey hair given the heavy tasks ahead, he added: "We are ready to help if needed for the sake of the people's interests."

In remarks aimed at addressing his own supporters, he said all is "red and white" - the colours of the national flag - meaning that both sides should work together.

But he said he may at times need to be critical because a democracy needs "checks and balances".

Mr Joko, replying to a question about talk that his former rival may join the ruling coalition, said it was something both of them would discuss with their respective allies.

Mr Joko was accompanied by his campaign team chief Erick Thohir, Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung and Transportation Minister Budi Karya Sumadi, among others.

Mr Prabowo, 67, turned up with the secretary-general of his Gerindra party Ahmad Muzani and politician Edhy Prabowo.

Ms Titi Anggraini, executive director of the Associations for Elections and Democracy, said the meeting may reduce political tensions and social divisions wrought by the April polls and even lead to the return of social cohesion.

But she said she hoped it would not lead to transactional politics since political actors have different roles to play in national politics.

In the afternoon, Mr Sandiaga Uno, who was Mr Prabowo's running mate, and Mr Thohir spoke at an event on future leadership organised by volunteer groups from both presidential candidates' camps.

The two men are friends and have worked together in local business associations.

"Indeed, we have different choices in the presidential election, but we have one similarity: Indonesia is what matters," Mr Sandiaga was quoted as saying by Detik news. "This is perhaps what can unite the young generation in the future despite differences."

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 14, 2019, with the headline Jokowi and Prabowo seek peace post-election. Subscribe