TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - The movements of Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan are monitored by Indonesian President Joko Widodo (Jokowi). He knows that Luhut often meets with Gerindra Party General Chair Prabowo Subianto, his opponent from the 2014 presidential election who will likely run again in the upcoming election. "Every week. Sometimes they meet every three days. I know all about it. I understand that," said Jokowi during an exclusive interview with Tempo on Friday last week.
Over the past month, Luhut and Prabowo met twice at the Sumire Japanese restaurant at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, Jakarta. Their first meeting took place before the Gerindra National Coordinating Meeting on April 11. Their second meeting was a week later. Luhut, who wanted to fly to the United States, stopped by the Grand Hyatt Hotel and talked with Prabowo for 30 minutes.
In addition to talking about their experiences in their youth, they spoke about the 2019 presidential election. "I only said, 'If you want to run, then run'," said Luhut. Luhut denied that he offered Prabowo to become Jokowi's running mate in the presidential election.
Speaking to Tempo, Jokowi said that Luhut's meeting with Prabowo opened up a chance to have Prabowo as his running mate. "(Laughing) I am open to all options for the good of the nation. All options are open," he said.
Gerindra Secretary-General Ahmad Muzani heard about the meeting with Luhut from Prabowo. According to Muzani, the idea was raised for Prabowo to run alongside Jokowi in the upcoming presidential election. Prabowo, said Muzani, did not openly decline the offer.
As a Javanese, according to Muzani, Prabowo turned him down politely by saying he will likely run in the upcoming election. One of Prabowo's replies, as imitated by Muzani, was: "Even if do I become Jokowi's running mate, do you think there'd be no (political) power which can defeat Jokowi?"
So, after meeting with Luhut early last April, Prabowo said that he was ready to step forward as a presidential candidate at the Gerindra National Coordinating Meeting. With 73 seats in the House of Representatives (DPR), Gerindra needs at least 39 more seats of support from other parties in order to register Prabowo as a candidate in the presidential election. Gerindra has made a written agreement with the Justice and Prosperity Party (PKS), which has 40 seats in the DPR, to support Prabowo.
However, the PKS has also been in contact with Jokowi. According to Jokowi, he met with PKS officials at least two times. "Did anyone say that I had never met with the PKS? Who said that?" he said.
Three months before the registration for presidential candidates opens, Jokowi has met with nearly all the political parties. "I have met with nearly all of their top figures," he said. "Some (meetings) were public, some were private." They talked about political issues. "We just spoke frankly. If you talk about politics it will surely include the presidential election. If you talk about the presidential election, for sure it will include talk about a coalition. That's how it goes, right? (Laughs)."
Jokowi did not deny the perspective that some parties have approached his camp because his electability continues to climb. A survey conducted by Kompas Research and Development in early April found that Jokowi's electability was 55.9 percent, up 9.6 percent from six months ago. Prabowo fell to 14.1 percent down from 18.2 percent over the same period. Former Indonesian Military (TNI) Commander Gatot Nurmantyo only had 1.8 percent. Other candidates came in at lower than 1 percent.
Even though Prabowo's electability is the highest compared to other candidates, some people close to Jokowi said that he actually prefers to run against Prabowo.
Read the full article in this week's edition of Tempo English Magazine