TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Anies Rasyid Baswedan was supposed to fly to New York and speak at the Global Education Conference in September. But the former education and culture minister had to cancel his trip after he caught a virus, forcing him to check in at a hospital instead.
During his treatment, Anies received visits from senior political party officials who sought contenders to run against incumbent Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (Ahok) in the next Jakarta gubernatorial elections. Anies' name was submitted for approval before he was eventually teamed with Sandiaga Salahudin Uno by the Gerindra Party and the Justice and Prosperity Party (PKS) two of his opponents during the 2014 presidential election.
Less than a month after he was dismissed from Joko Widodo's cabinet, Anies was officially named a candidate for the Jakarta governorship. Anies, the grandson of A.R. Baswedan, former information deputy minister during the revolutionary era, now frequents Jakarta's densely populated residential areas to give sermons at mosques.
The 47-year-old founder of the Indonesia Mengajar (Indonesia Teaches) movement dropped by Tempo's editorial office last week. He came with his running mate, Sandiaga Uno, who also answered a few questions.
Why did you accept the endorsement of the PKS and Gerindra?
This is a gubernatorial election. Jakarta seeks a governor for the next term and only political parties are allowed to field candidates. Gerindra and the PKS invited me to run. It would be different if I resigned from the cabinet to voluntarily propose myself or seek the parties' endorsement. I am just a citizen nominated by them.
But you were on opposite sides during the 2015 presidential elections.
The presidential election is over. The government is governing, so the polarization should end by now. That's why when these parties made me the offer, I told them I was ready to be nominated with Sandi.
You have no problem being supported by parties you ran against?
Sandi and I were in opposition parties. He was Prabowo's spokesman and I was Jokowi's. We've stayed too long in permanent, identity-based camps. Our nation continues to be surprised when different people get together. If we look back at our founding fathers and leaders, were things not like that? Didn't their coalitions remain unchanged? They did not. The PSI (Indonesian Sosialist Party) was able to become allies of Masyumi, and then turned and formed an alliance with the PNI (Indonesian National Party).
What's happening now is the start of a message to Jakarta. Jakarta has been boxed for far too long. We want a Jakarta governor who can reach out and speak to all members of the community, to anyone, in an open dialogue.
This is also a message that we both are planning to build Jakarta through dialogs and communication with everyone. The governor must whether he likes it or not work together with the DPRD, the city council and everyone else.
What discussions did you have before your candidacy?
The one who knows the process better is Sandi, because he was an 'inside' man. I was initially invited by the United Development Party (PPP), and then the National Mandate Party (PAN). They asked if I was willing to be considered [as candidate]. I spoke to my family and decided that I was. So the party that raised my name at the discussion table was the PPP.
Where did you have the conversation?
I met Romahurmuziy and Pak Zulkifli Hasan, and then my name was discussed at Cikeas. At that time it seemed there were hopes to get one ticket. On Wednesday night there were talks in Cikeas I wasn't there. I only heard from those who were that the discussion led towards one name, but there were disagreements about the choice of candidate for deputy governor, so deal was made.
Why did it come to a different decision?
In the morning, the PPP spoke with Sandi and Gerindra. They talked about the chances for the PPP, Gerindra, PKS, and PAN to unite. My name was mentioned in those discussions. At night, the PPP returned to Cikeas because their 'goods' were left behind with Gerindra and the PKS. Until Friday night, we waited for the PPP under the assumption that a coalition would be formed between the PKS, Gerindra, and PPP. But they didn't come back (laughs). In the end, Gerindra and the PKS had to make a decision.
Are you sure Gerindra and the PKS will give you full support?
I have never felt the slightest discomfort or reluctance when it comes to work. What can be seen is sticking with decisions. I know this is not an easy process for the PKS and Gerindra. Sandi works on a political process that is almost like Mission Impossible; how to unite elements that are opposite to one another. This has been an all-out two-week ride; meetings, working, fund-raising, field work. I believe they are giving it their all. What we are talking about now is Jakarta.
Can you tell me about your talk with Prabowo the night before your candidacy was announced?
"I've battled GAM (Free Aceh Movement). Once it was done; everything was over," Prabowo told me. These days, when people have different opinion, they refuse to shake hands. They won't even meet. What Gerindra and the PKS are doing is joining the hands of people not just cadres who were against each other. (*)
Read the full interview in this week's edition of Tempo English Magazine