Telly Nathalia, Jakarta – Losing presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto is no stranger to political gaffes, but on Monday, during a condolence visit to former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's home in Bogor, West Java, he let slip an etiquette blunder as well.
Having flown back to Jakarta from Dubai, Prabowo went to Yudhoyono's home to pay respect to his late wife, former first lady Ani Yudhoyono who passed away on Saturday, but simply could not miss an opportunity to speak up of his fading presidential ambitions.
Ani Yudhoyono died in Singapore after a long battle with cancer and was buried at the Kalibata National Heroes Cemetery in South Jakarta on Sunday.
Prabowo had left Indonesia to go to Dubai for unexplained reasons early last week and did not attend the funeral ceremony.
It was an awkward moment when Prabowo, the only challenger to incumbent president Joko "Jokowi" Widodo in this year's presidential election, made his faux pas during a live press conference aired by CNN Indonesia and Kompas TV.
"I was told Ibu Ani was a supporter of mine. She voted for me in [the] 2014 and 2019 [presidential elections]. So, I can feel what Pak SBY is feeling today," Prabowo said.
Yudhoyono, Indonesia's sixth president, was standing behind Prabowo when he made the untimely statement.
The former president did not interrupt Prabowo during the statement. After Prabowo left, Yudhoyono made his own statement.
"Please try to understand how we are feeling [right now]. We are in mourning. Ibu Ani had just passed away, don't get her involved in politics," Yudhoyono said.
The late Ani Yudhoyono was a co-founder of the Democratic Party with her husband, who is now the chairman. The party backed Prabowo's presidential ticket in this year's election.
Prabowo's politically-charged statement during his condolence visit, or takziah, drew criticism almost immediately.
"I watched him make that statement on Kompas TV. It's an inappropriate way to practice takziah. We should refrain from talking about politics to respect the feelings of those who are in mourning," Mahmuddin Muslim from Baitul Muslimin Indonesia (Bamusi), a conservative wing of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), told the Jakarta Globe on Monday.
He said during a takziah people should offer comfort and strength to the family left behind. "Prabowo should learn more about the protocols and courtesies of takziah," Mahmuddin said.