Indonesia’s Prabowo May Join Government

Indonesia’s losing candidate Prabowo Subianto, whose followers staged a bloody uprising that took the lives of nine and injured hundreds in the wake of his loss to President Joko Widodo, may join the government in an unlikely bid to maintain his political career in advance of the 2024 general election.

In an equally controversial development, the president is also said to be considering Angela Tanoesoedibjo, the daughter of media mogul Hary Tanoiesoedibjo, a former business partner of US President Donald Trump who just paid US$13.5 million for Trump-owned Beverly Hills mansion in a quiet, off-the-books transaction for a cabinet position. The Trump organization is working with Hary to build two luxury resorts, one in Lido in the Bogor regency, and another in Bali.

Tanoesoedibjo raised hackles because she is very young at 32. She was director of the MNC group, founded by her father, and served as deputy secretary general at the Perindo Party, which was also founded and financed by her father.

Talks for Prabowo to Join Government

Asrul Sani, a member of Jokowi's winning team, said intensive communication is going on between people representing Prabowo and the president. But, Asrul said, “whether at the meeting there was discussion about matters that were pragmatic (a division of government positions), it could be yes, it could no.”

The 67-year-old Prabowo and Jokowi, he said, share many similarities regarding development of the country, even though the two have different approaches. The mercurial former Special Forces general is alleged to have been involved in a string of human rights abuses and to have threatened violence at previous elections results.

Nonetheless, Asrul said, communication between the government and the opposition was necessary because of the political and security situation following the May 21 General Election Commission (KPU) decision ratifying Jokowi's victory with 55.5 percent of the votes. "Reconciliation is needed to reunite the divided society due to the presidential election," Asrul said.

Riots fomented by top campaign officials close to Prabowo broke out on May 21-22 between the losing candidate’s supporters and security forces, resulting in the arrests of hundreds of rioters, including the deaths and injuries. Police believe that retired Indonesian Maj. Gen. Kivlan Zen (above), the 72-year-old former chief of the Army Strategic Reserve and close Prabowo confidant, was the key figure in fomenting the violence.

Nonetheless, a day after the riots, Vice President Jusuf Kalla met with Prabowo at a hotel in Jakarta with Jokowi's permission. Kalla said the meeting paid off. Afterward, Prabowo's attitude softened. He issued a video attempting to persuade his supporters not to come to a trial at the Constitutional Court in mid-June seeking to reverse the election. When the court finally rejected Prabowo's lawsuit, he accepted the decision although he didn’t congratulate Jokowi.

Reports emerged that negotiations were continuing between the Prabowo and Jokowi camps regarding government positions, with Prabowo reportedly offered a position as presidential adviser. Tempo Magazine reported on June 24 that Prabowo had met with the head of the State Intelligence Agency (BIN), Budi Gunawan, in Bali to discuss reconciliation and the possibility that Prabowo’s Gerindra Party would enter the ruling coalition. Budi is known to be close to Jokowi and PDI-P leader Megawati Sukarnoputri.

However, Asrul Sani said the final decision whether Prabowo and his supporting parties could join the government is in Jokowi's hands.

"Before taking the decision, (Jokowi) would speak with the leadership of the coalition party," Asrul said. "But until now, we haven't discussed the matter yet."

In his victory speech, Jokowi offered an olive branch. “I invite Prabowo Subianto and [losing vice presidential candidate] Sandiaga Uno to jointly develop this country," Jokowi said. "Indonesia cannot be built with only one or two people or a group of people."

Prabowo is famous, or infamous, for his ambition to lead Indonesia. In 2004, he joined the Golkar Party a bid for the presidential nomination but lost to his former boss, retired general Wiranto. He then quit to found Gerindra, his vehicle to run in three subsequent elections.

In 2009, Prabowo became a vice-presidential candidate accompanying Megawati Sukarnoputri, the daughter of the country’s founding president Sukarno, but lost to Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. He then lost to Jokowi in 2014 and 2019.

Although he has repeatedly failed, Prabowo remains highly popular. In the latest Indonesian Survey Institute (LSI) release, Prabowo was still referred to as one of 14 candidates predicted to fight the 2024 presidential election. Gerindra doesn’t rule out the possibility. "In 2024, Mr. Prabowo will be only 72. If (he) is still healthy, why not?" asked Gerindra Party spokesman Andre Rosiade.

Prabowo's Party May Transfer Support

Jokowi is expected to meet with Prabowo in the near future, as well as with the Gerindra chairman to discuss several issues, including the possibility of adding the party to the governing coalition.

Juanda, a constitutional law expert from the Institute Government of Home Affairs (IPDN) warned that if too many parties join the government and too few remain in opposition, it would have a negative impact on democracy.

"If there are only two opposition parties, the opposition forces will not be balanced and effective in carrying out oversight of the government," Juanda said. "Even though the existence of opposition is needed to control and supervise all government policies and programs,"

If PAN and PD transfer support to Jokowi, seven parties would form the government coalition with only two in opposition. Based on the 2019 legislative election results, party support for the government in parliament rose to 78 percent against only 22 percent in opposition.

"If most parties in parliament support the government, then the government will tend to be authoritarian," said Juanda. He hopes that parties supporting Prabowo remain in opposition.

Cabinet to be Dominated by Young

Jokowi is predicted to appoint 34 ministers including 10 percent from retired army generals, 45 percent from professionals and 45 from coalition party cadres. Jokowi said the next cabinet, to be announced in October, will be dominated by young ministers, which he expects to have some criteria such as the courage to execute policies and have excellent managerial expertise.

Some figures predicted to hold ministerial positions and other high-ranking officials are the children of the previous president including Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono (SBY's son), Yenny Wahid (Islamic activist and daughter of former president Gus Dur), Ilham Habibie (son of former president Habibie), and Prananda Prabowo (son of Megawati).

Others rumored are Grace Natalie (chair of the Indonesian Solidarity Party), Nadiem Makarim (CEO of transportation company Go-jek), Prananda Surya Paloh (politician and son of media-mogul Surya Paloh), and Angela Tanoesoedibjo.

Secretary General of Perindo Party Ahmad Rofiq said Jokowi has asked all coalition parties to propose ministers from young people who could help him in his second cabinet. Perindo is one of Jokowi's supporting parties in the 2019 presidential election. "Perindo proposed Angela Tanoesoedibjo (as minister) considering she has all those criteria that Jokowi wants," Rofiq said.

On Tuesday, Angela posted a photo of her with Jokowi on her Instagram account @angelatanoesoedibjo, that strengthened the speculation that she would become one of the ministers in Jokowi's cabinet. Rofiq said the meeting between Jokowi and Angela was a positive signal that she would likely be appointed.