The Jakarta Post
Since its inauguration in March, Jakarta’s MRT had not gained as much prominence as it did on Saturday, when reelected President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo finally met with his archrival Prabowo Subianto. The two shook hands, kissed cheeks, took a ride on the MRT and ate satay, appearing as two close friends having a catch up. Whoever choreographed the widely anticipated encounter has fulfilled the public’s yearning for the two to reconcile after the bitterly contested presidential election in April. The MRT provided them the perfect stage: an open, public and more importantly, iconic space.
Not everybody is happy with the meeting, the first since they shared the limelight in the fifth and last presidential debate on April 13. Prabowo supporters have called their presidential hopeful a traitor, liar and loser for meeting with Jokowi. Many others have decided to bid adieu to Prabowo, who they say has disrespected their sacrifice.
On the other hand, the media coverage of the so-called reconciliatory meeting reflects the hope for an end to the energy-sapping feud between political elites. The nation has for the second time since 2014 witnessed a clear-cut divide, us against them, since both Jokowi and Prabowo confirmed their bid to contest the presidential election last August.
That Jokowi and Prabowo supporters are respectively referred to as cebong(tadpole) and kampret (small bat) has epitomized the long-standing, deep-rooted hatred among them. That’s why Jokowi, in his speech at Lebak Bulus MRT station, asked for an end to the sarcastic references. “There is no more cebong or kampret but Garuda Pancasila,” Jokowi said, referring to the national symbol of the mythical bird.
Prabowo, too, expressed his poise for national unity, which is why he agreed to meet with Jokowi. More than that, Prabowo’s congratulations for Jokowi’s reelection and his pledge to support the government is a testament to the opposition leader’s commitment to the greater good. It might be late but the maturity of Indonesian democracy has unfolded.
Surely, the much-awaited meeting between Jokowi and Prabowo is symbolic, so is the choice of the meeting point and the whole course of the event. The public at large will never know why Prabowo accepted the olive branch Jokowi offered since the General Elections Commission announced his win on May 21. Only Jokowi and Prabowo, and their respective inner circle, know the back-and-forth of their peace pact, but time will tell.
As Prabowo said about the need to remain critical of the government to make the checks and balances mechanism work, however, the reconciliatory meeting does not have to lead to a cohabitation government. Prabowo will gain more respect if he continues leading the opposition, simply to prevent the government from committing mistakes.
Now that the dust has settled, Jokowi and Prabowo can go their separate ways with guarded confidence that whatever role they each play, they share a common goal of advancing the nation’s well-being.