TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - The small talk between Gerindra Party secretary-general Ahmad Muzani and Justice and Prosperity Party (PKS) president Sohibul Iman at the Momiji Restaurant in Aston Priority Hotel, South Jakarta, on Monday last week, began with the subject of Japanese cuisine. Sohibul showed Muzani how to use wasabi, a condiment often used when eating sushi.
During their meal, Sohibul explained how the wasabi should not come into contact with the roof of the mouth. If that happens, a spicy zing will hit the nose. That's what makes people cry, said Muzani on Wednesday last week, relating an account of his meeting with Sohibul. Sohibul understands Japanese food because he was a student in Japan from 1992 to 2004, for his undergraduate studies up to his doctorate degree.
Muzani came with two others to meet Sohibul at the Aston, which is a few hundred meters from the PKS Headquarters. One of those present was Gerindra deputy general chair Sugiono. Sohibul was accompanied by the PKS general treasurer, Mahfudz Abdurrahman.
The conversation shifted to the 2019 presidential election. They discussed the matter of the vice-presidential candidate who will run alongside Gerindra general chair Prabowo Subianto. On Wednesday two weeks ago, Gerindra declared Prabowo their presidential candidate at the party's national coordination meeting.
Sohibul gave a list of nine candidates for vice president, all from the PKS. They included: West Java Governor Ahmad Heryawan, former PKS presidents Anis Matta and Tifatul Sembiring, Syura (Advisory) Council chair Salim Segaf Al-Jufri, and Syura Council deputy president Hidayat Nur Wahid. The others were chair for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Almuzzammil Yusuf, chair of Youth Affairs Mardani Ali Sera, West Sumatra Governor Irwan Prayitno, and Sohibul himself. The PKS had suggested those individuals to Prabowo some time ago, but the list was reiterated during this meeting.
Sohibul then suggested Heryawan (Aher) as Prabowos running mate. Why Aher? Because, based on their party's election, his name came out on top, said Muzani. Muzani did not immediately accept this offer because he needed to discuss it first with the Gerindra Party.
Sohibul refuted the information that he suggested Heryawan to Muzani. He said that Muzani asked about him first. Muzani inquired about choosing Aher. Then he asked a few questions about him, he said. Sohibul said that PKS had invited Gerindra to select one of those nine candidates.
After talking about potential vice-presidential running mates, the discussion moved on to the matter of declaring a presidential ticket. Sohibul offered to make a public declaration a day before the regional head elections, which are to be held simultaneously on June 27. He hopes that such an announcement will increase the electability of his party's candidates.
Muzani said the plan to announce their presidential ticket will be discussed first with all coalition parties. We are going to sit down together to determine a time which will have a positive effect, he said. Muzani reported the results of the meeting with Sohibul to Prabowo at the latters family residence in Jalan Kertanegara, South Jakarta, on Monday night last week.
Gerindra and the PKS could continue their coalition in the 2019 General Election. The two parties have been working together since 2014. Their combined number of seats in the House of Representatives (DPR) totals 113, or 20.2 percent of all seats in the legislature above the minimum amount needed to register a presidential candidate.
Before the meeting between Muzani and Sohibul, the parties signed a written agreement to form another coalition. This three-page agreement has two central points. First, Gerindra will put Prabowo forward as the candidate for president. Second, his vice-presidential running mate will come from the PKS: either a party cadre or someone else supported by the PKS.
PKS Syura Council deputy chair Hidayat Nur Wahid said this agreement was made to strengthen the commitment of his party and Gerindra to work together again in the next presidential election. That letter emphasizes that the PKS and Gerindra will bring forward a new president to replace Joko Widodo, said Hidayat.
Read the full article in this week's edition of Tempo English Magazine