Despite Gerindra chairman Prabowo Subianto’s declaration at the party’s national convention last week that he had accepted Gerindra’s nomination to run as their presidential candidate, as many observers have noted, it would be premature to say that a rematch between Prabowo and President Joko Widodo in 2019 is now a certainty (mainly due to the fact that the political party coalition Prabowo would need to make his candidacy official is far from consolidated).
In fact, the seemingly outlandish possibility of Prabowo choosing to instead run as Jokowi’s vice presidential candidate actually seems to have been one that was seriously discussed recently, at least according to some political insiders.
The main source of the unconfirmed news comes from Muhammad Romahurmuziy, chairman of the United Development Party (PPP). He told the media on Friday that Jokowi had met with his rival from the bitterly contested 2014 election rival twice in November to discuss the possibility of forming a unified ticket in order to maintain the country’s unity.
The PPP chairman said Jokowi had mentioned the meetings to him to get his input, and said that Prabowo had responded positively to the offer but that no final decisions were made.
There are also reports that Prabowo was still discussing the possibility of being Jokowi’s VP as late as April 6 (just a few days before Gerindra’s national convention last week), when he met with Coordinating Minister for the Ministry of Marine Affair Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan for a private dinner (the third such meeting he had reportedly had with Luhut in recent weeks).
According to an unnamed source cited by veteran journalist John McBeth in a piece published by Asia Times on Sunday:
At the third meeting over a Japanese lunch on April 6, Panjaitan raised the possibility of a joint Widodo-Prabowo ticket, but reportedly lost his appetite after Prabowo said he would consider it if he was put in charge of the military and was given seven seats in any new Cabinet.
Luhut did not deny that the April 6 meeting took place when asked about it by journalists yesterday, but was reluctant to comment on the specific topics discussed. He said that it was a private meeting, not “as Jokowi’s envoy”, but he did not explicitly deny that the VP offer might have been discussed, noting only that Prabowo was still carefully considering all his options.
The rumors, however, were explicitly denied by Gerindra vice chairman Fadli Zon, who said the source cited by McBeth was incorrect and that Prabowo’s meeting with Luhut was mainly to discuss the issue of palm oil. Fadli said that it was possible to two might have discussed the 2019 presidential election but dismissed any chance they discussed the possible terms of Prabowo taking the vice presidential spot on Jokowi’s ticket. Gerindra deputy secretary general Andre Rosiade called it a “hoax” and said it was just an ordinary meeting between friends.
But the possibility that Prabowo could still choose to run with Jokowi as opposed to against him seems like a real one. The most recent poll from the Median Survey Institute show Jokowi’s electoral numbers up and Prabowo’s down. PKS, one of the parties most likely to form a coalition to back Prabowo’s candidacy and get him across the required electoral threshold, recently reiterated that their support was contingent on one of their members being picked as Prabowo’s VP (any of which would likely drag down the former general’s electability).
On the other hand, the voting public does not seem to be big fans of the theoretical Jokowi-Prabowo partnership, with that same Median poll showing that 66.7% of respondents said they would not vote for the pairing.
But then, if Jokowi and Prabowo choose to run together in 2019, there may not be anybody else for them to vote for.