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Jakarta Post
The Jakarta Post
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Jokowi moves to bolster govt coalition

  • Ina Parlina and Nurul Fitri Ramadhani

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta | Mon, November 14, 2016 | 07:26 am
Jokowi moves to bolster govt coalition President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo (center) poses with military personnel during a visit to a large-scale exercise conducted by the Indonesian Navy in the Java Sea on Wednesday. Jokowi said on Thursday that he could deploy the Army's Special Forces' (Kopassus) reserve units in an emergency. (Courtesy of//Presidential Press Bureau)

After visiting the headquarters of the armed forces, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has continued to reach out to influential groups in the country in response to the growing political and social tensions following the mass rally in Jakarta on Nov. 4.

The President spent his weekend taking part in events held by three Islamic parties in the ruling coalition; namely the National Awakening Party (PKB) on Saturday, as well as the United Development Party (PPP) and the National Mandate Party (PAN) on Sunday.

The moves have been seen as a bid to maintain the nation’s unity, and consolidate the political parties in the government coalition, which secures more than 65 percent seats in the House of Representatives.

PKB, PAN and PPP account for around 24 percent of seats in the House.

“United we stand, divided we fall,” Jokowi stressed when he made a speech to thousands of PKB members and clerics gathered at the “a prayer for the nation” event.

On Nov. 4, more than 100,000 people flocked into Central Jakarta to demand that Jokowi push for the prosecution of Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama
alleged on blasphemy charges.

“We all must accept the fact that God created diversity and plurality and our constitutional system recognizes and protects such diversity and plurality,” Jokowi continued. “It is our responsibility to uphold it.”

The President made similar comments at a PPP event, which was a national meeting for party clerics, insisting that the legal process against Ahok would go forward and he would not interfere in the process.

“[The police] were working on the legal process even before the rally. Now the legal process is ongoing. So, be patient,” he said.

Although many believe the rally was partially motivated by a desire to undermine Ahok’s candidacy in next year’s gubernatorial election, the impact has inevitably gone beyond the Jakarta election. Observers say it has also affected the political landscape at the national level especially after the protests were used by those seeking to undermine Jokowi’s administration.

“We need better synchronization between the government and political parties within the ruling coalition. We lacked coordination when the rally happened. Where were the government parties? Some of them, indeed, joined the rally,” said senior Golkar Party politician Agung Laksono, who now chairs the party’s board of experts.

He said the government needed to have a “joint secretariat” to consolidate coalition parties, similar to that during former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s administration.

Unlike Golkar, which is the second-largest party in the coalition after Jokowi’s Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), the PKB, PAN and PPP openly participated along with other protest groups in the Nov. 4 rally.

Despite their positions as pro-government parties, the PKB, PAN and PPP are rivals to Jokowi’s PDI-P in the Jakarta election. While the PDI-P supports the Ahok-Djarot Syaiful Hidayat ticket, the three Islamic parties have joined forces with the Democratic Party to endorse Agus Harimurti, the son of
Yudhoyono.

In response to rumors that a larger-scale demonstration will be held should Ahok avoid legal charges, Jokowi said he hoped there would be no more demonstrations. “It’s a waste of energy,” he said after the PKB event on Saturday.

When asked about the President’s concerns, however, PPP chairman Muhammad Romahurmuziy said, “[demonstrations] are not aimed at fracturing the nation. We have the right to express our opinion.” He claimed he would remain loyal to Jokowi’s administration.

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