While Saturday’s meeting between President Joko Widodo and Prabowo Subianto was generally viewed as an important first step towards reuniting a politically divided country after April’s election, the Gerindra chairman has lost arguably his most conservative and vocal support base for making peace with the president.
Persaudaraan Alumni 212 (PA 212), an umbrella group consisting of some of the country’s most notorious hardline Islamist organizations such as the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), has pulled its support for Prabowo after their former champion met with Jokowi.
“We, PA 212, as well as all alumni and supporters [of the group] do not bow down to, let alone obey, Kertanegara (Prabowo’s residential address in South Jakarta),” PA 212 Legal Division Head Damai Hari Lubis said in a written statement, as picked up by CNN Indonesia.
“We only bow down to the grand imam Rizieq Shihab, who is now in the holy city of Mecca,” he continued, referring to the self-exiled founder of the FPI and spiritual leader of PA 212.
Officials from Gerindra previously said that any political reconciliation with Jokowi was dependent on Rizieq, who fled Indonesia for Saudi in April 2017 to escape a highly-ironic pornography case — which has since been dropped — and several other criminal charges, to be allowed to return to Indonesia. The government has said that it’s not responsible for repatriating Rizieq because the firebrand cleric left on his own accord.
But the Rizieq factor seems to have been disregarded by Prabowo in his peace negotiations with Jokowi, causing PA 212 to criticize the former general for not living up to his pledge to listen to guidance from the group’s ulemas before making any political decision.
PA 212’s support was a crucial piece in the narrative that Prabowo represented the Islamic vote and was a defender of the country’s ulemas, while the group often vilified Jokowi as the opposite, anti-Islamic representation.
Fate of the opposition
Jokowi’s meeting with Prabowo fueled further speculation that Gerindra may end up leaving the opposition coalition — which it has led — to join the government coalition. But a senior Gerindra politician says the party hasn’t yet determined its direction for the next five years.
“Prabowo and Gerindra are ready to join the government, but also ready to be the check and balance to the government, because they also need constructive criticism,” Gerindra Central Advisory Board Chairman Ahmad Riza Patria told CNN Indonesia.
Prabowo’s running mate, Sandiaga Uno, also publicly said that an opposition coalition is necessary to provide balance against the government, particularly as the government coalition has a super majority in parliament.
The Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), the party with the second largest number of votes among the opposition coalition in April’s election, has remained steadfast in its desire to continue opposing the government.