Following Prabowo Subianto’s failed legal challenge to overturn President Joko Widodo’s election victory late last month, one of the most hotly discussed issues in Indonesian politics is whether or not there will be a political “reconciliation” between the pair and the coalitions they represent, particularly with the Prabowo-led opposition coalition all but dissolved.
Now, it seems such a reconciliation could depend on the homecoming of one of the country’s most controversial figures.
“There are programs from [Prabowo’s campaign] that could be adapted by Jokowi. One that we’ve given special attention to is that Prabowo once asked for the return of Rizieq [Shihab],” Prabowo campaign spokesman Dahnil Anzar Simanjuntak told Kumparan on Saturday.
Rizieq, the founder and leader of the controversial hardline group, the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), went into self-imposed exile in April 2017 due to a pornography charge made against him. During his presidential campaign, Prabowo, on numerous occasions, promised Rizieq a safe and prosecution-free return to Indonesia if he were elected president and that he would personally be picking up the cleric with his private jet.
According to Dahnil, Rizieq wants to return to Indonesia but is unable to do so as the Indonesian government has asked the Saudi government to keep the firebrand cleric there as a favor to them
“I implore Pak Jokowi to open communications [with Saudi to facilitate Rizieq’s return] because Rizieq is an Indonesian citizen after all. He’s an important figure who is respected by many Muslims in Indonesia,” he said.
While Jokowi has not addressed any potential Rizieq homecoming since securing his reelection, a member of his coalition from the Golkar party says Rizieq’s return is “irrelevant” to any discussion about political reconciliation.
Rizieq is currently still in Saudi Arabia, where he has spent more than two years hiding from Indonesian law enforcement. Although police dropped his suspect status in the infamous pornography case that first led him to flee and stay out of his country, the FPI leader still has numerous legal cases at various stages pending against him including charges of blasphemy against Christianity and state symbols.