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Jakarta Post

Presidential campaign heats up as rival camps trade blows

  • Marguerite Afra Sapiie

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Thu, February 21, 2019   /   10:00 am
Presidential campaign heats up as rival camps trade blows Warm ending: Presidential candidate Joko “Jokowi” Widodo (left) embraces his rival, Prabowo Subianto, after the presidential candidate debate at Hotel Sultan in Jakarta on Sunday. The debate was focused on energy and food, natural resources and the environment as well as infrastructure. (JP/Donny Fernando)

The controversy surrounding presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto’s land ownership took a new turn on Wednesday, with Gerindra Party figures insinuating that Joko “Jokowi” Widodo had also benefited from Prabowo’s business acumen.

In a direct jab against the incumbent, who revealed during the second presidential debate that Prabowo controlled thousands of hectares of land, the rival camp warned Jokowi that his rise to political stardom was partly thanks to the party founded by the former army general.

Gerindra Party deputy chairman Edhy Prabowo said proceeds from Prabowo’s ownership of large property concessions in East Kalimantan and Central Aceh contributed to Jokowi’s bid for the Jakarta governor’s post in 2012, regarded as the key milestone that heralded his rise to the presidency in 2014.

“Some of the funds made from the business were wired to finance Pak Jokowi’s campaign during the 2012 Jakarta gubernatorial election and the amounts were massive,” Edhy said on Wednesday.

Jokowi ran in the Jakarta gubernatorial election with Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, with the backing of the Gerindra Party and the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P).

The pair won the election, defeating then incumbent Fauzi Bowo-Nachrowi Ramli in the runoff.

With Jokowi’s past ties to Gerindra, Edhy deprecated Jokowi’s remarks, which he described as a personal attack against Prabowo during the debate last Sunday.

When the candidates traded barbs on agrarian reform, Jokowi replied to Prabowo’s criticism over his administration’s land-distribution program by saying that his rival owned 220,000 ha in East Kalimantan and 120,000 ha in Aceh.

“[Jokowi] seems to have forgotten that Pak Prabowo and the Gerindra Party played a role in getting him to where he is now,” Edhy said.

The disclosure that Prabowo owned extensive landholdings, apparently contrary to his own campaign narrative that often criticizes the small clique of Indonesian people who control the country’s resources, has led to the two rival camps trading blows with each other.

Prabowo acknowledged in his closing statement in Sunday’s debate that he owned cultivation rights over the tracts of land granted by the state and that he was willing to return the concessions to the state.

Vice President Jusuf Kalla jumped into the fray on Tuesday, revealing that Prabowo had bought the land in East Kalimantan for US$150 million in 2004 after Kalla granted the purchase of the concession to the former general in order that the land “would not fall into the hands of foreign business players.”

Although relatively unknown, Prabowo and his younger brother Hashim Djojohadikusumo control the Nusantara Group business empire, which has a total of 27 companies engaged in the plantation, forestry, mining and energy sectors.

Recently, Hashim criticized Jokowi for asserting that he did not spend any money during the race for the Jakarta governorship, with Hashim saying that he had been the one who wired the money to fund Jokowi’s campaign at the time.

Jokowi came to his office several times and asked for financial assistance, Hashim claimed, and he decided to provide not only money, but also campaign banners and Jokowi’s signature checkered shirts.

“I have the records that we helped Pak Jokowi’s [campaign],” he said.

Hashim, who is an executive in Prabowo’s campaign team, revealed in 2014 that he gave about Rp 52 billion ($3.7 million) for Jokowi’s campaign in the 2012 Jakarta election.

PDI-P politician Eva Kusuma Sundari confirmed that Gerindra took part in financing the campaign, however, she said that Prabowo gained more benefit because his party and his own picture were promoted in most of the campaign materials.

Vedi Hadiz of the Asia Institute at the University of Melbourne in Australia said that both Prabowo and Jokowi were entangled in the oligarchical structure that had been nurtured during the New Order Era and now co-existed with the country’s democracy.

“The fact that Prabowo could be thought of as ‘a man of the people’ is quite amusing given his origins at the heart of the New Order Era oligarchy,” Vedi told The Jakarta Post, highlighting the fact that Prabowo was the former son-in-law of former president Soeharto.

“That people might think that Jokowi has been able to launch his political career, and survive for this long, without the financial muscle of oligarchs is just as funny.”

“Oligarchy has been reproduced and continues to thrive within Indonesia’s democracy.  In the present democracy it is protected by the fact that it has colonized the institutions of governance.  These include the major political parties, and national, regional and local legislatures,” he said.