JAKARTA. After months of a very bitter public spat, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo is reconciling with his predecessor Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in a move that may become a prelude to a shifting alliance in the second round of Jakarta’s gubernatorial election.
Yudhoyono visited the State Palace on Thursday after requesting the meeting earlier this week. The two politicians had a 30-minute closed-door talk before meeting journalists on the palace veranda.
The chairman of the Democratic Party, who had earlier accused the Jokowi administration of wiretapping his phone and granting clemency to former Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) chairman Antasari Azhar to make the candidacy of his son, Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, fail in the Jakarta race, showed up at the press briefing with a smile, saying that everything that happened between the two leaders was only “miscommunication and misinformation” because they rarely meet each other.
The relations between the two had worsened since the campaign for the first round of the Jakarta election that had put incumbent Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, the candidate from Jokowi’s party, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), in competition with Yudhoyono’s son and with former education minister Anies Baswedan, who is supported by the Gerindra Party.
A string of political maneuvers related to the candidates had inevitably harmed the relations of the two.
The rift reached its lowest point on the eve of the election day, when Yudhoyono accused Jokowi of intentionally granting clemency to release Antasari so that he could attack him. Earlier that day, Antasari made a public statement that Yudhoyono had been behind the murder plot that had sent him to prison to retaliate against him, when he was KPK chairman, for prosecuting Agus’ father-in-law, Aulia Pohan.
While at times becoming frontrunner during the campaign season, Agus finally lost, leaving Ahok and Anies to vie against each other in a runoff on April 19.
With Agus out of the race, the support of Yudhoyono’s party has been coveted by the remaining two candidates in a tough race that has been marred by sectarian bigotry.
“The atmosphere of today’s meeting was very good and it is a moment that can be used to seek tabayyun [clarification],” Yudhoyono told reporters on the veranda of the palace during a joint press conference.
Yudhoyono claimed that he went to see Jokowi with no political agenda. “I’m here in my capacity as a former president, not as the chairman of the Democratic Party,” he said.
On Sunday at a wedding party Yudhoyono and Ahok met and spoke, which has been seen as a move by the candidate to woo support for the runoff.
The executive director of the Political Literacy Institute, Gun Gun Heryanto, said although Jokowi never publicly declared support for Ahok, the President had a role in bridging communications between the PDI-P and Ahok.
“The meeting could determine where the support of the Democratic Party will go in the second round of the Jakarta election,” Gun Gun told The Jakarta Post.
Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) political analyst Arya Fernandes said the reconciliation between Jokowi and Yudhoyono could ease political tensions ahead of the second round of the Jakarta election.
“It is hoped that the meeting of the two leaders could calm down the political situation at the grassroots,” Arya told the Post.
Speaking after Yudhoyono, Jokowi said meetings between former and sitting presidents should become a tradition in Indonesian politics so that a sitting president could learn from his predecessors.
“We should have this kind of tradition so that [a new president] should not start from zero [when his or her government begins],” Jokowi said.
The Democratic Party claimed that Thursday’s meeting happened on Yudhoyono’s initiative to give clarification regarding the current political tensions.
“Isn’t the meeting good? They also talked about national [issues] and how to make Jokowi’s administration run well,” Dems deputy chairman Syarief Hasan said.
Syarief denied Jokowi and Yudhoyono talked about things related to the election. (Haeril Halim, Margareth S. Aritonang and Nurul Fitri Ramadhani)
Editor: Barratut Taqiyyah Rafie