President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo, right, met the chairman of the National Mandate Party (PAN) Zulkifli Hasan in Jakarta on Monday. (Antara Photo/Puspa Perwitasari)

Coalition-Building Not Main Topic of Talks With Opposition Party Chairmen: Jokowi


OCTOBER 15, 2019

Jakarta. President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has been meeting with chairmen of opposition parties in the past few days to – as he said – "discuss future challenges for the country." Nevertheless, he did not rule out the chance that the parties might join his coalition government after his inauguration on Oct. 20. 

On Monday, Jokowi met with the chairman of the National Mandate Party (PAN), Zulkifli Hasan. Last week, the president sprung a surprise by meeting with the chairman of the Democratic Party, former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, and Prabowo Subianto, the chairman of the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) whom he defeated in April's presidential election.

The surprise meetings led to speculations the president is trying to rope in the opposition parties to join his coalition government. 

Gerindra, the Democratic Party and PAN were in a coalition supporting Prabowo in the 2019 presidential election

Jokowi won the presidential race convincingly with 55.5 percent of the vote, but tension between his supporters and Prabowo's had continued long afterward. 

The first sign of a thaw in the tense relations between the two was a brief, highly orchestrated meeting on board Jakarta's brand new MRT train in July. 

Jokowi did not deny discussing the possibility of the opposition parties joining his government in the meetings with their leaders, but said they had spent more time discussing "future challenges for the country."

"We talked about geopolitical and geoeconomic challenges; we know the world's economy is slowing down and every country is affected," he said after his meeting with Zulkifli at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta on Monday.

"[We face] domestic and external challenges. Domestic challenges include radicalism, [look at] what happened to Mr. Wiranto," Jokowi said.

The president was referring to the stabbing of Indonesia's Chief Security Minister by a suspected Islamist radical in Pandeglang, Banten, on Oct. 10. 

Jokowi said he and Zulkifli also talked about a possible amendment to the 1945 Constitution that may spell an end to direct presidential election and return the power to elect Indonesia's president and vice-president to the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR).

Direct presidential election in Indonesia was held for the first time in 2004 when Yudhoyono, known in Indonesia by his initials SBY, won the race.

Zulkifli was a former speaker of the MPR and is currently its deputy speaker. 

"I asked him about the amendment plan because he was the MPR speaker. I wanted to hear his analysis of what might happen [if the amendment goes through]," Jokowi said.

Prabowo's Political Safari

After his meeting with Jokowi on Friday, Prabowo went on to meet other party leaders from the ruling coalition.

On Sunday, the former general met the chairman of the National Democratic Party (NasDem), Surya Paloh, one of Jokowi's main backers.  

Gerindra and NasDem reached a three-point agreement during the meeting: to uphold national interests, to fight radical ideas that undermine Pancasila – the state ideology – and to support amendments to the Constitution.

Prabowo also met the chairman of the National Awakening Party (PKB), Muhaimin Iskandar, who is also the deputy speaker of the House of Representatives (DPR), on Monday evening.