TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - One month before the registration deadline for the 2019 Presidential Election candidates, Vice President Jusuf Kalla name continues to be mentioned as one of those who could be President Joko Widodo running mate. According to Kalla, the President, though not explicitly, has hinted that the pair should run together again in next year election. He used the term "don't change the winning team", Kalla, now 76, said during a special interview with Tempo in his office last week.
However, any Kalla's vice-presidential (VP) candidacy would run foul with the rules. Law No. 7/2017 on General Elections states that a person may only hold the position of vice president for a maximum of two terms. Those wanting Kalla to continue to serve alongside Jokowi in 2019 even submitted a request to the Constitutional Court (MK) for a judicial review of the provisions relating to term in office, but their request was denied.
Kalla says the possibility for him to be a vice-presidential candidate is not completely closed off as the Constitutional Court rejected the earlier request on the grounds the party submitting it had no legal standing. "The substance of the issue was not in question," he said.
Apart from being considered as a potential vice-presidential candidate, he is also being encouraged to run for the top spot. This started after a meeting he had with Democrat Party Chair Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) on Monday two weeks ago. Since then, talk of Kalla partnering with Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono has been widely circulated. However, he says he had no discussions about a coalition in that meeting at SBY's residence in Kuningan, South Jakarta. Kalla says he is reluctant to be a presidential candidate because he would then be running against Jokowi. "Both I and Pak Jokowi want to avoid that," he said.
He also told Tempo reporters Arif Zulkifli, Stefanus Pramono, Wayan Agus Purnomo, Raymundus Rikang, Angelina Anjar, and Ahmad Faiz about his recent closeness to Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan over the past few weeks. Last Tuesday and Wednesday, both attended an informal friendly halal bi halal (after-Ramadan) gathering with the Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah National Management Boards. On Friday two weeks ago, Kalla even took Anies back to the Jakarta City Hall after both had inspected the Asian Games competition facilities in Pulomas and Senayan in Jakarta.
You were in the car with Anies when you drove with him to City Hall. This sparked speculations that you support Anies as a candidate in the 2019 Presidential Election. Your comment?
That is all politics. Anything can be interpreted any way you like it. In fact, we only talked about technical issues. After inspecting the Asian Games venues we had a meeting, then went to Friday prayers together. As the route back to his office was the same as mine, which is close by, and he did not know where his car was, well, he caught a ride with me.
What did you say to him during your journey?
I asked a lot about Jakarta. 'What do you think? Will all the projects for the Asian Games be finished on time?'
Do you believe Anies is moving too slowly?
These projects are all out of his jurisdiction. The MRT (mass rapid transit), for example, is a national project and not fully under his authority.
Did Anies promise to be a candidate in the 2019 presidential election?
All that depends on the prevailing conditions and wishes of the public. Currently, there has been a change in people's attitudes because information, including the media, is so much more accessible. Solidarity among Muslim groups is also growing. Even though Anies does not come from a religious party, he is at least close to them.
Does he have any chance?
Everyone has a chance. But it all depends on conditions at the time, as to what is needed. This solidarity is getting more interesting to study. Nowadays people like gambus, Arabian-style religious songs. There is a change in people's interests. Qur'an recitals are being held everywhere. In universities, most young women now wear the jilbab head covering.
Is that good or bad news?
That depends on how you look at it. For me, it is good news. At least religious morality has gained some ground. The bad news is that certainly some among them are radicals. That also poses a danger. But I believe there are many more who are not radicals.
Is the current strengthening of identity politics dangerous or not?
It is happening everywhere. Is there any lack of democracy in America? Yet Trump very clearly speaks about a specific grouping, opposing Muslims coming into America. When has Indonesia ever said anything like that? We do not have any presidential candidate saying those of another faith cannot come here. Who is practicing identity politics more, us or America? America is more hardline. That is why Americans themselves are criticizing this.
There are reports you have proposed Anies to several parties.
No. I actually said to him, 'You will be a success once the DKI (Jakarta) is a success. So, just focus on DKI first. Once you succeed with it, that will be extraordinary political capital for you."
So Anies needs to wait for the 2024 Presidential election?
He still needs to gain experience. That is why, in surveys, his (electability) as a candidate is still low. As a vice-presidential candidate, it is higher.
Does that mean, Anies could be a candidate for vice president?
Yes. I tell the young people, 'Your time will come in 2024.'
Read the full interview in this week's edition of Tempo English Magazine