Jakarta – Accompanied by his only son, fashion designer Didit Hediprasetyo, Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto, who also chairs the country's third-largest party, Gerindra, visited Indonesia's two most powerful figures, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo in Yogyakarta and former president and chairwoman of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), Megawati Soekarnoputri, in Jakarta on the first day of Idul Fitri on Monday.
It was a combination of a silaturahmi (communal bonds) visit and a political mission that Prabowo did right. Many believe Prabowo is not a politician who does not hesitate to backstab friends or foes. As a retired Army general, he simply demonstrated his respect for the President, the military's supreme commander.
For Prabowo, Jokowi is now his boss in the Cabinet, while Megawati will play a crucial role in his bid to contest the 2024 presidential election because the PDI-P is the only party that has secured a ticket while others have to form a coalition to meet the presidential threshold. Prabowo was Megawati's running mate in the 2009 presidential election, in which they lost to the Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono-Jusuf Kalla pair.
Speculation has been rife that the PDI-P will join forces with Gerindra again in 2024, with Megawati's daughter Puan Maharani tipped to be Prabowo's running mate. For the PDI-P, the combination is realistic considering Puan's consistently low popularity rating while Prabowo has persistently been in the top two, if not the front-runner.
Jokowi received his defense minister at the State Palace in Yogyakarta with First Lady Iriana and their youngest son Kaesang Pangarep. The President said the gathering was free from any political element, although for many, the meeting of two former political rivals on a festive day like Idul Fitri sent a political message. At the very least, they demonstrated a cordial relationship, which is a big relief to the nation after remembering the division resulting from their bitter rivalry in 2014 and 2019.
Their mutual trust is key to ending hostilities among their grassroots supporters. One may jump to the conclusion that Jokowi will not mind endorsing Prabowo's candidacy in the 2024 election in exchange for his loyalty. Only time will tell, but Jokowi's blessing is advantageous for Prabowo and others who aspire for the presidency.
As part of the administration, Prabowo can claim all the government's achievements, as well as Jokowi's relatively high approval rating. But this can also backfire because many of Prabowo's die-hard supporters still cannot forgive Jokowi.
On Wednesday, Prabowo went to East Java to meet with senior clerics of Indonesia's largest Muslim organization, Nahdlatul Ulama. He also visited the tomb of Indonesia's third president Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid, who was an NU leader. East Java is NU's stronghold, alongside Central Java, and as shown in past elections, whoever gains the most votes in East Java wins the presidency.
Prabowo's safari came as millions of Indonesians traveled to their hometowns to celebrate Idul Fitri, the first time they were allowed to do so since the COVID-19 pandemic struck. The government restricted human mobility during Idul Fitri in 2020 and 2021 for fear of uncontrolled transmission of the disease.
Nothing is peculiar about Prabowo's Idul Fitri courtesy visits to prominent figures and Muslim clerics, regardless of his political motive, as other politicians do the same. Those wishing to contest the election have to prepare themselves as early as possible, just to make sure the people will not choose the wrong leader.
As the Indonesian proverb goes, we must not membeli kucing dalam karung (buy a cat in a sack); we must not blindly buy into something we know nothing about.