As allies, Jokowi, Prabowo reap mutual benefits

Almost nine years on from their first election debate, the two politicians have cemented a symbiotic relationship that many believe will benefit both in 2024.

Yerica Lai

Yerica Lai

The Jakarta Post


President Joko (Antara/Zabur Karuru)

February 1, 2023

JAKARTA – President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto have come a long way since their erstwhile bitter rivalry in the 2014 and 2019 elections.

Almost nine years on from their first election debate, the two politicians have cemented a symbiotic relationship that many believe will benefit them both in 2024.

For Jokowi, Prabowo’s blessing is key to cementing a new political dynasty, political analysts have said.

During a recent work trip to Surakarta, Central Java, Gerindra Party chairman Prabowo visited Jokowi’s eldest son Gibran Rakabuming Raka, who is following in the footsteps of his father as the mayor of the city.

Prabowo met Gibran at his official residence, where discussions revolved around the latter’s potential to run in either the Central Java or the Jakarta gubernatorial race in 2024.

Either post is likely to be a springboard for an eventual presidential bid, as evidenced by the support gathering around incumbent Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo and former Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan.

Both figures consistently rank in the top-three positions, alongside Prabowo, in public opinion polls looking at potential candidates for the 2024 presidential elections.

Prabowo has been giving advice to his former rival’s son. “The advice is that I should go ahead [and run in the gubernatorial race]. Like I have explained before, I need to move forward,” Gibran told the press on Jan. 24.

After their meeting, Prabowo himself conveyed support for the “First Son” to run for governor in Central Java or Jakarta, saying that “he is fit” for either job. “I believe he will succeed if he runs,” the senior politician said.

Just days after his meeting with Gibran, Gerindra’s leader traveled to North Sumatra to attend the wedding of his right-hand man, Dahnil Simanjuntak, in Deli Serdang regency. But he also set aside some time to visit Medan Mayor Bobby Nasution, who is Jokowi’s son-in-law.

After that meeting, Prabowo praised Bobby’s leadership and credited him with improving the quality of life in the provincial capital. He went on to say that Bobby was well-equipped to run for a higher office should he want to.

Shared interests

Agung Baskoro, a political analyst from the Trias Politika Strategis research agency, said that Prabowo’s cozy relationship with Jokowi’s sons was the result of “converging” interests.

On the one hand, Prabowo is intent on running again in the 2024 elections. On the other hand, Jokowi is seeking to strengthen his political lineage. And who better to offer him support than an ambitious political party chairman.

“Like it or not, Prabowo needs Jokowi’s blessing to run in the 2024 presidential race. When Jokowi gives his endorsement to Prabowo, ideally the latter would pave the way for Jokowi’s sons to take on more strategic roles,” Agung told The Jakarta Post recently.

Prabowo has been on the shortlist of presidential hopefuls being seriously considered by Jokowi to receive his endorsement for 2024.

In November of last year, during an event celebrating the anniversary of the United Indonesia Party (Perindo), a coalition partner, Jokowi quipped that “it seems it will be Pak Prabowo’s turn [to become president] after this”.

Of the three most popular would-be candidates, the retired army general is the only one to have secured a presidential ticket, by surpassing the 20 percent threshold requirement for legislative seats that is necessary to field a candidate; Gerindra forged a coalition with the National Awakening Party (PKB), which has a strong voter base in Java.

In addition to being a potent endorsement for anyone running for office in the regional elections, observers are also closely following Prabowo to see if he will use his party’s clout to block at least one other contender.

A YouTube video featuring Creative Economy and Tourism Minister Sandiaga Uno, chairman of Gerindra’s advisory council and Prabowo’s former running mate, is currently making the rounds online for suggesting that there had been a prior agreement between Prabowo and Anies not to compete when one of them decides to run for office.

Upon being asked by NasDem Party politician Akbar Faizal to confirm this arrangement, Sandiaga was quoted as saying it was “crucial” for Prabowo’s 2019 campaign, but stopped short of revealing any incriminating details.

Sandiaga was Anies’ running mate in the 2017 Jakarta elections, and Gerindra was a key backer of their ticket.

Kaesang’s future

There has also been talk that Kaesang Pangarep, Jokowi’s youngest son who recently expressed his intention to enter politics and contest a regional poll, was considering joining Gerindra. If this indeed becomes the case, analysts say it would help “diversify” Jokowi’s political interests for when he eventually steps down.

Agung said the President would not have to put all his eggs in one basket, especially with the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle’s (PDI-P) chairwoman Megawati Soekarnoputri rarely hesitating to remind Jokowi that he is merely a “party functionary”.

“Jokowi would have another political vehicle to exercise future plans for his political dynasty, outside of the PDI-P sphere [of influence],” he said.

Like other parties, Gerindra has opened its door to Kaesang, with deputy chairman Budisatrio Djiwandono saying that the party has been seeking to encourage the younger generation to become more proactive in politics.

Bawono Kumoro of Indikator Politik Indonesia said that Kaesang’s potential career break with Gerindra would depend on Jokowi’s future relations with Prabowo, and whether he stands a good chance of winning in 2024.

“[But] if Prabowo fails to be elected again as president and his relationship with Jokowi turns sour, the most realistic thing for Kaesang is to join the PDI-P, where he could get adequate political backing,” the researcher told the Post.

Separately, Gibran told the Post that there had not been any such talk about Kaesang joining either party. The Surakarta Mayor previously said he would let his younger brother decide for himself which path to take.

The PDI-P has invited Kaesang to become a card-carrying member of the party. Additionally, PDI-P secretary-general Hasto Kristiyanto noted on Saturday that the party subscribed to the rule “that members of one family cannot be in different parties”. (tjs)

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