Prabowo's vice-president pick offers olive branch to Jokowi

Mr Sandiaga Uno, who drained a sizeable chunk of his private equity fortune - he said previously he had spent nearly US$100 million (S$136 million) - during the election campaign, is weighing his next move. "We have been able to energise the base. (A
Mr Sandiaga Uno, who drained a sizeable chunk of his private equity fortune - he said previously he had spent nearly US$100 million (S$136 million) - during the election campaign, is weighing his next move. "We have been able to energise the base. (And it) shows that people are really asking for change," he says. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

His willingness to work with Indonesian President may ease fears of a drawn-out legal fight over election results

JAKARTA • One of Mr Joko Widodo's top political opponents has 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 released yesterday that he would put the national interest first, no matter what the outcome of the April 17 election is.

Mr Prabowo has refused to accept unofficial quick counts that show Mr Joko, also known as Jokowi, has won a second term in office. The 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.

PUTTING COUNTRY'S INTEREST FIRST

The interest of the country is first and foremost. I want to contribute to the country. It's about how we can deliver the best impact. 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 UNO, vice-presidential pick of presidential challenger Prabowo Subianto. The election authorities have until May 22 to release official results.

 
 
 

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 policymaking as a second term begins.

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

With the official result still possibly weeks away, allegations from the Prabowo camp of mass fraud are continuing to overshadow the elections. Claims of a conspiracy between the government and the 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 lead 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, has only one word in his name, has rejected the allegations of voter fraud as unfounded and urged calm.

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

Last Thursday, National Mandate Party (PAN) chairman Zulkifli Hasan held talks with Mr Joko in a meeting that has raised speculation about the party regaining a position in the Cabinet.

It had been a member of Mr Joko's first-term coalition and held a Cabinet post until last August, when it joined forces with Mr Prabowo ahead of the election campaign.

Several PAN officials have echoed Mr Sandiaga in dismissing suggestions of a split between the party and Mr Prabowo's Gerindra party. "PAN is still firmly in coalition with Gerindra," said Mr Dradjad Wibowo, a senior PAN member.

Mr Sandiaga, who drained a sizeable chunk of his private equity fortune - he said previously he had spent nearly US$100 million (S$136 million) - during the election campaign, is 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 a potential future leader, he also risks seeing his presidential ambitions fade if he is left without a political platform. "I'm not going back to business, he said. "This is it."

BLOOMBERG

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 29, 2019, with the headline 'Prabowo's V-P pick offers olive branch to Jokowi'. Print Edition | Subscribe