Thousands of people participate in the '212 reunion' rally at the National Monument (Monas) in Central Jakarta on Sunday. (Antara Photo/Sigid Kurniawan)

'212 Reunion' Rally Shows Waning Opposition Support, but Jokowi Better Watch His Back

DECEMBER 02, 2018

Jakarta. Opponents of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has marked Dec. 2 a historical date, as two years ago they managed to gather hardline-Islamists, fundamentalists, and religious conservatives Muslims to rally against the then Jakarta governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama for blasphemy.

In May 2017, Ahok was sentenced with two years for insulting Islam in a controversial case when he was referring to a verse in the Koran during a campaign speech a year earlier. The verdict was harsher than expected.

Dogged by blasphemy allegations and protests by Islamic organizations, Ahok lost the race in April 2017 to opposition candidate Anies Baswedan. Ahok was endorsed by the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, which has been backing President Jokowi, and Anies was backed by Prabowo Subianto, the leader of opposition party the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra).

Since then, three little numbers: 212 has become a symbol to describe the movement of the opposition.

Opposition leaders showing up

This Sunday (2/12), Prabowo, his close aide Fadli Zon, who is also the Deputy Speakers of the House, the speaker of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) Zulkifli Hasan, MPR deputy chairman Hidayat Nurwahid and Anies, along with other opposition politicians, made an appearance in front of the crowd to commemorate the historical date.

"I won't speak long, because as you all know [...] as a Presidential candidate, I must obey and follow all the regulations. I cannot speak politics, I cannot do any campaigns, yet. So I just want to thank the organizer that I was invited today," Prabowo told the crowd in the National Monumen (Monas), Central Jakarta on Sunday.

The man, who entered politics 14 years ago when he competed for the Golkar presidential nomination in 2004 and made two further attempts to win the country’s highest office, said: "Our friends from other religions, ethnics, and races participated today's commemoration. We are proud because Islam in Indonesia is Islam that unites others. We will maintain peace for everyone."

Bawaslu Warning

The Election Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu) has previously warned it will monitor the 212 rally celebration, as Monas has been declared by the country's Election Commission (KPU), as a sterile area for political activities. Bawaslu member Rahmad Bagja had previously told some local media if the rally lead to any political campaigns, then Bawaslu will take "some serious actions".

Rizieq made live streaming

Meanwhile, despite currently living in his exile in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, the leader of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) Muhammad Rizieq Shihab, did not want to miss momentum to give his words to his supporters. Through live streaming, he called participants of the so-called 212 reunion to maintain the unity of the Republic Indonesia. "Take a good care of our country, guard Islam, respects other regions, there should not be a hateful comments [against other religions]," he said.

Rizieq also called the country's legal enforcers not prosecuting religious movement supporters.

The leader of the FPI has been a fugitive for over one year after being named a suspect in a pornography case (some believe as politically-driven) by the Jakarta Police, but in July the authorities were reportedly to have dropped his suspect status, citing a lack of evidence.

Capitalizing Religious Movement

Analysts have said it was that 212 rally two years ago, dubbed as the largest demonstration during Jokowi's term, which have led to an increasing political intolerance in Southeast Asia's largest economy.

“In a democratic society, political movement by the oppositions can be undertaken by parties losing the elections or from non-party. That’s legitimate. Then, to answer the question whether this 212 reunion is considered a political movement of the opposition? Automatically it is [a political movement],” Director of Indonesian Voters Institution (LPI) Boni Hargens on Saturday.

Boni was speaking in a discussion event held by LPI tittled: “The 212 Reunion, A Moral Movement or Political?”.

“Just pay attention of this move in three aspects, the historical aspect, the timing, and the discourses or narratives they seek to promote,” he said.

Boni, who is also a lecturer of political science in state-owned University of Indonesia, explained the movement becomes historical, as at that time moral movement by Islam people to defend their religion was effectively capitalized by some political elites to defeat the incumbent, which at that time leading in terms of popularity.

“212 is a political movement that takes advantage of a moral religious movement,” Boni said.

Prior to the 212 rally in 2016, there was a violent protest in Nov. 4, which was organized by several Islamic organizations, including the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI). Popular celebrities like Ahmad Dhani and Rhoma Irama threw up their supports in this rally.

The country's two biggest Islamic organizations Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah did not encourage their members to attend the November protest, but did either prohibit members to attend it. The government, at that time, had made attemps to reduce hateful religious sentiments by blocking access to websites affiliated with the planning of the protests.

It did not stop the what was started as a peaceful rally from Istiqlal Mosque to the Presidential palace to becoming violent after the nightfall, when authorities tried to disperse the protesters as time allotted for the protest was up. One died in the riots and hundreds of protesters and dozens of police officers were injured.

212 Losing Identity, Has Weakening Supports

Fast-forward nearly two years, the numbers 212 apparently made its way into some economical aspects as it inspired a failed political party called the 212 Sharia Party (who failed KPU screening), a minimart (212Mart), and Sharia cooperative (Koperasi Syariah 212). But those are just the only things owned by anyone with connections to the actual 212 group.

It was the National Movement to Defend the MUI Fatwa (GNPF-MUI), which started to organize demonstrations against the governor in October 2016. GNPF MUI, the mastermind of the movement, actually sought to coin the 212 term and made it a trademark, with missions to promote Islamic economy. In simpler word, they thought they could monetize what was at the time a protest movement through Koperasi Syariah 212 and 212Mart.

According  to Boni of LPI efforts to build brand identity over the three little numbers failed as many supporters back to routines after they escorted the victory of Anies against Ahok.

Ironically, the man who actually came up of the numbers is now persona non-grata amongst his fellows in GNPF Ulama, as now it is called. It was Kapitra Ampera, a former lawyer of FPI leader Rizieq, who recently betrayed the opposition and joined the PDI-P. He was no longer welcome at any GNPF Ulama gatherings.

Jokowi, who is a popular Islamic moderate, also has chosen ally with a 75-year-old Islamic cleric, Ma’ruf Amin, as his running mate in 2019 election, in a bid to ease movement of Islamic hardliners, who have gained ground in recent years, as they emerges from the fringes of society in the Muslim-majority country. Ma'ruf is backed by liberal Muslim organization Nahdlatul Ulama, which is the largest Muslim organization in the country.

Still, Boni said,with regards to timing, he said the community that supports 212 is getting more active ahead of the legislative and presidential elections. He said this movement is no longer a pure moral and religious movement, but now is a confirmed political campaign. "Political contract, or integrity pact between GNPF Ulama signed by Prabowo and Sandi (Sandiaga Uno, his vice president candidate pair), is a proof that movements with religious jackets has now entered political arena. The 212 move, which has been active since 2016, is likely to remain alive and kicking until 2019 elections [...] to defeat incumbent President Jokowi," he said.

Proud Fadli zone posted a comment in his official Twitter account that exagerated the participants of the event.

"Millions of participants of #ReuniAkbar212 (the great reunion) has filled Monas and its surrounding area this morning. Amazing," he said in his tweet.

Boni of LPI said the 212 is wide-spreading a propaganda in social media platforms or comments in mainstream media that criticizes the current administration.

"The 212 has become a movement by the political oppositions in their fight for power. They wish the administration of President Jokowi ends in the 2019 elections. In other words, the reunion is pure movement by oppositions against the current administration," he said.