At times, during the presidential election campaign earlier this year, it appeared that Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) leader Rizieq Shihab's unwavering support for Gerindra Chairman Prabowo Subianto was eternal. Fast forward several months, the two are about to find themselves on opposite sides of the political divide in Indonesia.
One may recall that one of Prabowo's campaign promises was that he would personally bring home Rizieq on his private plane if he won the election. Prabowo did not win, and Rizieq is still living in self-imposed exile in Saudi Arabia, where he has been since 2017 after being charged in an infamous pornography case.
After the bitterly fought election which saw President Joko Widodo elected for a second term, the relationship between Prabowo and the FPI, as well as other affiliated hardline Islamic groups, strained after the former made peace with the president.
Then, yesterday, Prabowo dropped a huge bombshell by announcing that Jokowi has asked him to take a national defense post, which he accepted.
Prabowo's announcement all but confirmed that Gerindra – which led the opposition coalition in Jokowi's first term – has joined the government's coalition. It appears that many have been disappointed by this plot twist, least of all the FPI and Rizieq.
"All this time Rizieq does not want to know about Prabowo suddenly agreeing to join Jokowi," Rizieq's legal representative, Sugito Atmo Prawiro, said yesterday as quoted by Kumparan. "[Rizieq has] no comment but he is monitoring developments."
While Rizieq has been tight-lipped about Prabowo, Persaudaraan Alumni 212 (PA 212), an umbrella organization of Islamist groups, gave Prabowo 100 days to repatriate Rizieq should the former military general become Jokowi's minister of defense.
"If in those 100 days there is no attempt to do so, then we will be in opposition against Prabowo," PA 212 spokesman Novel Bamukmin said, as quoted by Detik.
President Jokowi is expected to announce his new cabinet ministers some time this week. Prabowo is undoubtedly among the biggest names to have been tapped for a ministerial post by Jokowi, along with Gojek founder Nadiem Makarim, who stepped down as CEO of the startup decacorn yesterday.