President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono invited Jakarta Governor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo — a potential presidential candidate from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) — to his office on Friday, two days after courting two presidential hopefuls: Lt. Gen. (ret) Prabowo Subianto and Yusril Ihza Mahendra.
Jokowi claimed there was nothing political about the meeting as he was invited in his capacity as leader of the capital city.
Jokowi, seen as the most electable politician ahead of the 2014 presidential election, according to various surveys, said that he and Yudhoyono discussed the challenges facing Jakarta, including floods, traffic and poor sanitation.
Jakarta Deputy Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama was also invited to the meeting but he could not make it, Jokowi said.
“Since we’ve been in office, we have never been invited by the President to be given instructions,” he said.
Jokowi said that the issue of the election was also discussed but it was more about ensuring the capital city was ready for it.
“We should monitor the preparations for both the legislative and the presidential elections as those are only months away, because, at the end of the day, Jakarta is the country’s capital,” the governor said.
When pressed by journalists as to whether the President talked about his candidacy, Jokowi said: “The meeting was about the city. As for political matters, once again, please ask Ibu Mega [Megawati Soekarnoputri] or the party’s central executive board.”
Despite his popularity, Jokowi has not yet stated his intention to run for president. His nomination currently hangs in the balance as Megawati, his party’s chairwoman, is apparently insisting upon running for election again.
Megawati lost the elections twice to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in 2004 and 2009. Her approval rating is far below that of Jokowi, a relatively unknown politician before his election as Jakarta governor.
Two days prior to meeting Jokowi, the President met with Prabowo of the Great Indonesia Movement (Gerindra) Party and Yusril of the Crescent Star Party (PBB). Both Prabowo and Yusril have declared their presidential bids.
The meetings have sparked speculation that Yudhoyono is looking for a possible alliance in 2014, with his Democratic Party’s popularity now in tatters due to a number of graft scandals.
According to a number of surveys, the electability of Yudhoyono’s party is below 10 percent, down from around 20 percent in 2009. The party also does not have a presidential candidate whose popularity can match that of Jokowi or Prabowo.
Yudhoyono, who is barred from seeking a third term by the Constitution, has been forced to hold a presidential convention to find the best candidate to represent the party in the presidential race.
The meetings with Jokowi and Prabowo have come in the wake of a move by Yusril to challenge the Presidential Election Law. Yusril is seeking to scrap the threshold required for a political party to nominate a president. Analysts say that his petition, if granted, would change the political landscape in 2014.
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