The Thinker: The Ahok-Prabowo Axis

By : Jakarta Globe | on 11:29 AM February 05, 2014
Category : Opinion, Columns

When Jakarta Deputy Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (Ahok) and his family visited Great Indonesia Movement (Gerindra) Party chairman Prabowo Subianto at the latter’s private residence in Bojong Koneng, Bogor, during the Lunar New Year holiday, it was not an ordinary happening.

After a hearty lunch, the two sat down for about two hours over coffee. Not too many details could be revealed about their conversation but according to Prabowo’s confidante, Sudaryono, Ahok told Prabowo that the majority of Indonesians would support him as their next president.

“Prabowo must have the guts to order e-budgeting for all regional, city and provincial governments. If implemented, e-budgeting will rid the nation of all loopholes prone to corruption,” Sudaryono quoted Ahok as saying.

Ahok, whose popularity is increasing for his daring moves in cleaning the city administration of corruption as deputy to Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo (Jokowi), also advised Prabowo on how to garner more votes in the upcoming election.

“At a time when my trust in political parties had faded, Gerindra was the only one that was different. It was the only party that did not collect money for candidates who ran in regional elections. It’s Gerindra’s real strength, which I often tell people about. This opens the way to honest and capable politics. All Gerindra party stalwarts must convey this to their constituents,” Ahok said.

After coffee, Prabowo then brought Ahok, his wife Veronica Tan and their three children to his private library. He gave Ahok’s children Kopassus medals of honor. Ahok later said the medals motivated his son Nicholas a lot — since he has long wanted to become a soldier.

Prabowo then gave Ahok a book titled “Surat Untuk Sahabat,” or “Letter to a Friend.”

“For Pak Ahok, as a good friend, I hope this book inspires and I guarantee that there is absolutely no outpouring of the heart in this book,” Prabowo said. It was not clear why Prabowo said that. Perhaps to express determination, decisiveness and strong leadership or perhaps to complement Ahok?

Chased after that meeting with Prabowo, Ahok said at City Hall that Prabowo had asked him to remain at the city administration. And on the possibility of becoming Jakarta No. 1, Ahok said that would depend on Megawati Sukarnoputri, chairwoman of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), which has backed Jokowi.

Ahok, who is also close to Megawati, has warned against speculating that he was trying to mend soured relations between his Gerindra and the PDI-P. Megawati had visited Ahok’s home during Christmas and the two also had dinner together. Ahok then appeared with both Jokowi and Megawati at the latter’s home and had lunch together.

Asked about his chances of becoming Prabowo’s running mate, Ahok said that’s a small possibility.

Megawati, who ran with Prabowo during the 2009 elections and lost to Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Boediono, has indicated that she would welcome a new political communication with Prabowo, pundits say. Analysts have also suggested Megawati and Prabowo had signed a political pact back in 2009 that the PDI-P would back Gerindra in the next election. Some PDI-P politicians however dismissed the existence of such a deal.

On paper, surveys ranked Jokowi as the most popular presidential candidate — although Megawati or the PDI-P has yet to nominate him as presidential candidate — while Prabowo ranked second.

Gerindra is now trying to become the third-largest party after the PDI-P and the Golkar Party to meet the threshold required to name a presidential candidate. If, in the end, Megawati herself decides to run for the presidency instead of nominating Jokowi, the political landscape will surely change and Prabowo will gain from that. And if Jokowi doesn’t run, it would be possible for Gerindra to forge a coalition to meet the presidential threshold.

Then again, no one can read Megawati’s mind — or Jokowi’s. It’s down to Javanese cosmology.


Yanto Soegiarto is the managing editor of Globe Asia, a sister publication of the Jakarta Globe.

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