Jokowi rival Sandiaga Uno extends olive branch after disputed Indonesia vote

Indonesia vice-presidential candidate Sandiaga Uno casting his vote at a polling station in South Jakarta. With the official result possibly still possibly weeks away, allegations from the Prabowo camp of mass fraud are continuing to overshadow the e
Indonesia vice-presidential candidate Sandiaga Uno casting his vote at a polling station in South Jakarta. With the official result possibly still possibly weeks away, allegations from the Prabowo camp of mass fraud are continuing to overshadow the election.PHOTO: IKHWAN YANUA

JAKARTA (BLOOMBERG) - One of Mr Joko Widodo's top political opponents said he is open to working with the Indonesian president following a disputed election this month, raising hopes for a peaceful outcome.

Mr Sandiaga Uno, the vice-presidential pick of challenger Prabowo Subianto, said in an interview he would put the national interest first no matter what the outcome of the April 17 election.

Mr Prabowo has refused to accept unofficial quick counts that show Mr Widodo, also known as Jokowi, has won a second term in office. Election authorities have until May 22 to release official results.

"The interest of the country is first and foremost," Mr Sandiaga said when asked if he would consider a Cabinet post if the count, as expected, confirms that Mr Joko wins again and makes an offer.

"I want to contribute to the country. It's about how we can deliver the best impact," Mr Sandiaga said in the interview, his first with international media since the vote.

"It doesn't have to really be in the government. It could be outside the government, but again, I don't want to speculate. We'll have these conversations after May 22."

Mr Sandiaga, 49, is nearly two decades younger than Mr Prabowo and has expressed a desire to remain in politics after amassing millions of dollars as a private equity investor. He denied any rift with Mr Prabowo, who has made repeated allegations of electoral fraud that have spurred protests from his supporters.

Mr Sandiaga's apparent willingness to work with Mr Joko could dampen fears of a drawn-out legal fight over the election results that could hinder policy making as a second term begins.

Mr Joko is facing the challenge of spurring economic growth, keeping a lid on the costs of staples and creating jobs, especially for the country's millennials and growing middle class.

With the official result possibly still possibly weeks away, allegations from the Prabowo camp of mass fraud are continuing to overshadow the election. Claims of a conspiracy between the government and election authorities have prompted concerns about potential unrest, with the ructions also seen as risking Indonesia's ability to lure much-needed foreign investment.

Unofficial quick counts from a dozen pollsters on the day of the vote gave the election to Mr Joko, with the ongoing tally from Indonesia's election commission mirroring that and showing him with a gap of about 10 percentage points.

"Let's go to the real count and let's make sure the process is fair, transparent and accountable," Mr Sandiaga said.

Mr Joko's Security Affairs Minister Wiranto, who like many Indonesians uses only one name, has rejected the allegations of voter fraud as unfounded. The former commander of the Indonesian military urged calm and asked the public to resist being "incited to take action".

The president, meanwhile, is getting on the business of government, and jockeying has already begun for positions in his next Cabinet.

Last Thursday, chairman of the National Mandate Party (PAN) Zulkifli Hasan held talks with Mr Joko in a meeting that has raised speculation of the party regaining a position in the Cabinet. The party had been a member of the Jokowi first-term coalition and held a Cabinet post until August when it joined forces with Mr Prabowo ahead of the election campaign.

Several PAN officials echoed Mr Sandiaga in dismissing suggestions of a split between Mr Prabowo's Gerindra party and PAN.

 
 
 
 

"PAN is still firmly in coalition with Gerindra," said Mr Dradjad Wibowo, a senior member of PAN. "Our focus is still on vote counting. We found a large number of cases of vote rigging and abuse of power by many state apparatus."

A successful investor who drained a sizeable chunk of his private equity fortune - he said in a previous interview he had spent close to US$100 million (S$136 million) - during the election campaign, Mr Sandiaga is now weighing his next move.

"We have been able to energise the base," he said, and it "shows that people are really asking for change".

He insisted he is staying in politics. Still, while regarded as potential future leader, he also risks seeing his presidential ambitions fade if he is left without a political platform.

Mr Sandiaga made his fortune with PT Saratoga Investama Sedaya Tbk, an investment holding company he co-founded almost 20 years ago in the wake of the Asian financial crisis.

The graduate of George Washington University in the United States said ahead of the vote that he had lost close to a third of his net worth, which until recently had been in the vicinity of US$360 million.

"I'm not going back to business, he said. "This is it."