Surprise VP pick frays opposition coalition ahead of Indonesian presidential poll

Surprise VP pick frays opposition coalition ahead of Indonesian presidential poll

JAKARTA – Jakarta’s deputy governor is “99 per cent” certain to be the running mate of former general Prabowo Subianto in next year’s Indonesian presidential poll, a senior party official said, a proposed move that risks rupturing the opposition coalition.

Prabowo and vice presidential pick Sandiaga Uno are expected to challenge President Joko Widodo and his choice for running mate, who has yet to be revealed.

Widodo is a popular moderate who has had mixed success with his reform agenda. Prabowo, a former general who has yet to formally confirm his candidacy, is a nationalist with strong links to Islamists who frequently rails against foreigners.

Indonesia, the world’s third-largest democracy and biggest Muslim-majority country, goes to the polls in April. Candidates for president and vice president have until Friday to nominate.

Arief Poyuono, deputy chairman of Prabowo’s Gerindra Party, told Reuters on Thursday that Uno’s elevation was a “99 per cent possibility”. Asked what the 1 per cent doubt was, he replied “God”.

Uno’s likely elevation came as a shock to many political players and pundits.

A senior official from one opposition coalition party – deputy secretary general of the Democrat Party Andi Arief – described Prabowo as a “cardboard general” and a “chicken” in a stream of derogatory comments posted on social media on Wednesday night.

For the Democrat Party official, Uno’s emergence was a betrayal. Just last week, the Democrat Party, chaired by former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, and Prabowo’s Gerindra party announced an alliance.

Agus Yudhoyono, a 39-year-old retired soldier and the former president’s son, was expected to be the vice presidential candidate after the deal.

“I have had doubts for a long time whether (Prabowo’s) voice matches his mentality. He is not a strong leader, he is a chicken,” Arief tweeted.

Prabowo went to the elder Yudhoyono’s home on Thursday. Leaving the meeting, Prabowo declined to discuss what transpired.

Asked when he would declare his candidacy and whether Uno would be his running mate, he said: “The process is ongoing. Relax.”

Gerindra’s secretary general, Ahmad Muzani, who accompanied Prabowo when meeting Yudhoyono, said the atmosphere during the meeting was friendly, although they did not come to a decision on who gets to be the vice presidential candidate.

Uno did not respond messages and calls from Reuters but local media quoted him saying on Thursday that he had not resigned as Jakarta deputy governor.

“I’m still on duty,” he said, according to local news portal “No resignation letter has been drafted.”

Uno, a wealthy private equity tycoon, is a member of Gerindra and reportedly met Prabowo at his home on Wednesday.

He played a pivotal role plotting the campaign to oust Widodo ally and then incumbent governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, who was accused of insulting the Koran and was later jailed for two years.

After the victory, Uno said it was regrettable race and religion had dominated the campaign.

Gerindra’s Poyuono said the Prabowo-Uno team would mean the opposition had candidates from both Java and outside Indonesia’s most populous island. Uno has roots in Gorontalo in Sulawesi.

Many Indonesians from outside Java resent Java’s political and economic dominance.

(Additional reporting by Maikel Jefriando and Gayatri Suroyo; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Published at Thu, 09 Aug 2018 01:12:00 -0700

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