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Jakarta Post

Time to bury the hatchet

  • Editorial Board

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Sat, April 27, 2019   /   09:08 am
Time to bury the hatchet Two men wear masks of presidential candidates Joko Widodo (left) and Prabowo Subianto as residents in Joho, Surakarta, Central Java, hold an event on Wednesday to foster harmony in the wake of last week’s elections. (Antara/Maulana Surya )

The meeting between President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and People’s Consultative Assembly Speaker Zulkifli Hasan on Wednesday should revive hopes for the nation of seeing the political elite reduce tension after the grueling April 17 presidential race. The election has split the nation into two camps that have been trading punches since the campaign season began last September, without giving any sign when their standoff will end.

Jokowi and Zulkifli held a brief talk after the inauguration of the North Maluku governor and deputy governor at the State Palace. Nevertheless, the meeting was symbolic as Jokowi and Zulkifli belong to opposing sides. Jokowi is the incumbent seeking a second mandate and Zulkifli chairs the National Mandate Party (PAN), which is among a coalition of parties supporting Jokowi’s opponent Prabowo Subianto in the election.

The encounter between the two national figures came after Jokowi’s attempt to renew his communication with Prabowo failed. The former Army general, who has fought Jokowi for the presidency twice in a row, turned down an offer to meet Jokowi’s envoy Luhut Pandjaitan. Prabowo cited his focus on the ongoing vote tallying as an excuse, but the fact that he persistently claims to have won the election but that massive vote rigging has cost him the victory indicates such reconciliation remains elusive.

Nothing is wrong with Prabowo’s suspicion of electoral fraud, particularly because he is facing the incumbent along with his privileges, which is why he has asked his supporters to keep watching the progress of the manual vote counting from the polling stations up to the final stage at the General Elections Commission (KPU). The Jokowi camp, however, should be similarly cautious in view of a transparent and accountable vote counting process, which will end when the KPU announces the results scheduled for May 22.

It is in the interests of the nation that the election is free from fraud. The fewer vote rigging cases found the more credible the election will be, and the more legitimate the elected government.

The law requires candidates to bring solid evidence of alleged fraud before the Constitutional Court when disputes over election results occur. The problem with Prabowo’s move is that while presenting the narrative of a deceitful election, he keeps telling his supporters that he has won the presidency, although the KPU had only finished one third of its vote tallying work as of Friday.

One unexpected reaction from Prabowo’s supporters is a plan to mobilize masses to reject the election results if the KPU declares Jokowi the winner. The police have reportedly deployed thousands of Mobile Brigade strike force troops from across the country to the capital city, which only gives rise to increased tension.

Clearly the statesmanship of the political elite is being put to the test in the crucial weeks ahead of the KPU’s announcement. Both the rival camps can help calm people at the grass roots if they exercise restraint,if they are unable to make reconciliatory gestures.

Statesmanship is measured by the readiness to bury the hatchet, either in victory or defeat.