Sandiaga Uno refuses to congratulate Jokowi on election win, calls that ‘western culture’, then congratulates him anyways

Former Jakarta Vice Governor Sandiaga Uno. Photo: Instagram/@sandiuno
Former Jakarta Vice Governor Sandiaga Uno. Photo: Instagram/@sandiuno

Sandiaga Uno, running mate to defeated presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto, has seemingly been forced to shift his views several times following the April 17 election. After first being mocked by memes for appearing incredibly reluctant to support Prabowo’s spurious claims of victory and allegations of massive election fraud (allegations that were legally dismissed by the Constitutional Court last week) he eventually fell in line to support his campaign’s quixotic legal challenge.

Similarly, Sandiaga resisted offering congratulations to President Joko Widodo and his running mate Ma’ruf Amin, until news of his peculiar cultural justification for doing so went viral.

Yesterday, the General Election Commission (KPU) officially declared Jokowi and Ma’ruf the winners of the April 17 presidential election. In a speech given shortly after the KPU declaration, the president and future vice president called for unity and reconciliation as Indonesians across the country congratulated them for their wins.

But there was a noticeable lack of congratulations coming from Prabowo and his campaign yesterday, despite the defeated candidate previously declaring that they would respect the Constitutional Court’s decision and not make any more attempts to legally challenge the election result.

Asked why he had not yet offered his congratulations to the president yesterday, Sandiaga told the media that it was because saying congratulations is not a part of Indonesian culture.

“We already said we respected the decision of the Constitutional Court before and this is the highest expression of respect for the process. Saying congratulations like that is Western culture,” Sandiaga said yesterday as quoted by Detik.

“Even if we want to give congratulations, congratulations for what? Congratulations on work, congratulations on your new life. These are cultures that are not Indonesian in my opinion,” Sandiaga added.

News of Sandiaga’s congratulations = Western culture sentiment quickly went viral, with most netizens expressing disappointment or outrage. Some mocked him for acting like another “Western” concept —  the sore loser.

As to the question of whether saying congratulations is a part of Indonesian culture, Detik also did an interview with a sociologist from Gadjah Mada University, Prof. Dr. Sunyoto Usman, who said that offering congratulations to the winners of elections had long been a part of local political culture and speculated that the real reason Sandiaga didn’t want to say congratulations yet was to avoid offending Prabowo’s and his supporters.

But late yesterday night, Sandiaga seemed to do a flip-flop on the congratulation controversy (perhaps in response to the scorn his previous statement received) with a video posted to his personal Instagram account offering his carefully worded congratulations to Jokowi and Ma’ruf.


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A post shared by Sandiaga Salahuddin Uno (@sandiuno) on

“The MK (Constitutional Court) has declared candidate pair 01 as the winner of the 2019 Presidential Election. Thus, Joko Widodo-Ma’ruf Amin will lead for the next five years. Today we witnessed the president-vice presidential election chosen by the KPU,” Sandiaga says in the video.

“For that, I congratulate them on their work, congratulations on carrying out the mandate of the people, congratulations on striving to achieve the ideals of social justice for all the people of Indonesia,” he said.

You might notice a lack of the specific phrase “congratulations on your victory”, or some variation thereof, which may have been Sandiaga’s attempt at not angering Prabowo’s supporters by legitimizing Jokowi’s win. But it certainly isn’t consistent with what the George Washington University MBA graduate had previously said (that very same day), unless he’s decided to embrace Western culture after all. 

On Thursday, the Constitutional Court ruled against a lawsuit filed by Prabowo’s campaign that claimed Jokowi’s campaign had engaged in massive and systemic vote fraud. On Friday, the opposition coalition of political parties supporting Prabowo’s candidacy was officially dissolved and there are rumors that several of its former members, including Prabowo’s own Gerindra party, may join Jokowi’s government coalition.

There was also a great deal of speculation that Sandiaga joined Prabowo’s ticket and paid for much of the campaign with his personal fortune in the hopes of raising his national profile for his own presidential run in the future. However, if he hopes to run for the country’s top office in 2024, his path to the presidency may put him on a collision course with Prabowo, who is reportedly still considering yet another run during the next presidential election.


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