‘Even if the sky falls’: After seemingly walking away, Democrats now officially backing Prabowo-Sandiaga

VP candidate Sandiaga Uno (L) and presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto. Photo: Instagram/@sandiuno

The sky did fall on the Democratic Party, metaphorically speaking, following a whirlwind of political drama yesterday. But, despite their disappointments, the party still decided to back Gerindra chairman Prabowo Subianto and his running mate pick, Sandiaga Uno after the pair officially announced their candidacy for April’s presidential election last night.

The Democrats, who only recently joined the coalition of opposition parties headed by Gerindra, caused much chaos over the past few days after their deputy secretary general, Andi Arief, accused Sandiaga (who had been the vice governor of Jakarta but has now officially stepped down after announcing his VP candidacy) of paying IDR500 billion (US$35 million) each to fellow opposition parties PAN and PKS to secure his nomination.

Though PAN and PKS denied the explosive allegations, they did end up supporting the Prabowo-Sandiaga ticket when it was officially announced last night. The Democrats, led by former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY), were quite understandably not part of last night’s announcement. At the time, they only said they could reconsider their support for Prabowo’s candidacy.

Unlike in 2014, the Democrats can’t remain neutral in the presidential election as a 2017 election law requires all parties to declare support for one presidential candidate or face penalties. This morning, the party’s leaders held a meeting in South Jakarta to determine their course of action.

Neither of their two options could have been particularly appealing. If they were to back Prabowo-Sandiaga, they risked the embarrassment of having to crawl back to their allies after making their explosive allegations. If they were to back the pairing of President Joko Widodo and Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) Chairman Ma’ruf Amin (whose nomination came as an extreme shock to many last night), they risked further strengthening the ruling PDI-P party. And the antagonism between PDI-P chairwoman and former President Megawati Soekarnoputri and SBY is well known.

After the meeting, the Democrats agreed that there was only one viable option for them all along: supporting the Prabowo-Sandiaga ticket.

“This process that’s full of pushing and pulling and critiques is just part of the political dynamic. We are still of the principle that, even if the sky falls, we will support the (opposition) coalition,” Andi Arief told Detik today.

Andi said the Democrats will not go back on their promise to back the opposition, even though they are disappointed that Prabowo did not go through with his promise to pick SBY’s son, Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, as his running mate.

Despite the reports of infighting in the coalition, Prabowo said he is welcoming SBY’s Democrats with open arms.

“He is supporting our coalition, supporting mine and Sandiaga Uno’s candidacies and this is a great step forward,” Prabowo told reporters this morning, as quoted by Detik.

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