Jakarta – Prabowo Subianto met Megawati Soekarnoputri on Wednesday, a move that many interpret as a further sign that the former general might be joining the country's ruling coalition, but will also complicate political consolidation in Indonesia after April's elections.
Prabowo, the chairman of the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra), was Megawati's running mate when she ran for president in 2009. But the two were on the opposite ends of the political spectrum in this year's election, which Prabowo lost to President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, whi was backed by Megawati and her Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P).
The two seem to have patched up their differences since then and on Wednesday shared a meal of dumplings and fried rice at Megawati's residence in Central Jakarta.
"The fried rice was amazing. I had to come back for seconds," Prabowo said, describing his meeting with Megawati to reporters.
Prabowo said Megawati has always been like family to him since they share a similar commitment to keep Indonesia united. "We are patriots of NKRI [the Unitary State of Republic Indonesia]," Prabowo said.
Earlier this month, Prabowo had also met Jokowi on board Jakarta's brand new MRT train, in another sign that the political feud between them might be thawing.
The meeting put an end to nearly a year of bitter campaigning and a closely-contested presidential election that almost split the country in two, as Prabowo's refusal to accept his loss sparked street protests and violent riots.
Prabowo, however, is showing signs of mellowing and he might now even consider working together with the Jokowi administration.
"It's normal to have differences, but we want to continue to keep our kinship and good relationship, so we can overcome the problems of this country together," Prabowo said.
Gerindra joining Jokowi's cabinet?
Megawati said Prabowo had asked for her blessing to have some senior members of his party among Jokowi's new ministers.
Jokowi has been offering Gerindra to join his ruling coalition since the end of the election in an effort to quell their opposition.
April's election put Gerindra as the third-largest party in the House of Representatives with enough seats to derail Jokowi's reform agenda. But Gerindra's response to the offer has been vague to say the least.
Top executives of the Democratic Party and the National Mandate Party, Gerindra's coalition partners in the presidential and legislative elections, have also met with Jokowi, a move that many view as blatant political maneuvering for cabinet posts.
Prabowo's meeting with Megawati, however, presented the clearest signal yet that Gerindra does not want to be outmaneuvered by their former coalition partners.
Megawati said she told Prabowo that she could chaperone him to meet with Jokowi again to discuss the possibility of a coalition. But the final decision, she said, was "the prerogative of the president."
'No coalition, no opposition'
Gerindra joining the cabinet would create complications for Jokowi's original coalition members.
Surya Paloh, the chairman of the National Democratic Party (NasDem), invited fellow party chairmen from the Jokowi coalition to his house on Monday with the stark exception of the PDI-P.
Present in the meeting were Golkar Party chairman Airlangga Hartarto, National Awakening Party (PKB) chairman Muhaimin Iskandar and United Development Party (PPP) chairman Suharso Manoarfa.
"The parties must have thought there had been an agreement to allow Gerindra to join the ruling coalition. This would have serious implications on the power-sharing between them," Sirajuddin Abbas, the director of political consultant company Saiful Mujani Research Center, told BeritaSatu on Wednesday.
"[The Prabowo and Megawati] meeting might bring more positive sentiments, but it's not enough [for Gerindra to join the ruling coalition]. PDI-P is only one party in the coalition. The other parties are showing their hands that they may have their own agenda," Sirajuddin said.
Megawati said Prabowo did ask her why the PDI-P was absent from Surya Paloh's meeting. According to her, a scheduling conflict had prevented her from attending.
The former president also said that PDI-P has been busy making preparations for its national congress on Aug. 8-11.
"I told Prabowo our political system does not recognize a coalition or an opposition. Differences are normal. That's why a dialogue is necessary," Megawati said.
Megawati said she hoped her meeting with Prabowo would remind Indonesians to keep a cool head amid a heated political landscape. "We should be more relaxed. That's my opinion, and I believe Prabowo agreed with me," Megawati said.