Prabowo Reads Poem Attacking ‘Liars,’ Gerindra Still Open to PDI-P Coalition

Prabowo Subianto (C), the presidential candidate for the Great Indonesia Movement (Gerindra), waves from a jeep to supporters as he campaigns ahead of the legislative elections in Jakarta on March 23, 2014. (AFP Photo/Adek Berry)

Prabowo Subianto (C), the presidential candidate for the Great Indonesia Movement (Gerindra), waves from a jeep to supporters as he campaigns ahead of the legislative elections in Jakarta on March 23, 2014. (AFP Photo/Adek Berry)

Jakarta. The Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) has said a coalition with its one-time ally and now biggest rival, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) is still possible, despite escalating political tension and obvious competition.

Gerindra chairman Suhardi said on Monday that the party was still open to a coalition with any political party, including with the PDI-P.

“The most important thing is whether or not the party will be able to respect our party’s platform,” Suhardi said when asked by journalists whether Gerindra had completely ruled out the possibility of forming a coalition with the PDI-P.

Speculation about a falling-out between the two parties was sparked after the PDI-P officially named the wildly popular Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo as the party’s presidential candidate.

Gerindra’s founder and presidential hopeful, Prabowo Subianto, accused PDI-P chairwoman Megawati Sukarnoputri of violating a 2009 political agreement — dubbed the Batu Tulis Pact — under which the PDI-P pledged support for Prabowo’s presidential bid in 2014.

Megawati and Prabowo previously ran a losing campaign together in the 2009 presidential election. Later, in 2012, they linked up again, as their two parties formed a coalition that helped Joko secure the Jakarta governorship — a move many believed foreshadowed another political partnership for the 2014 presidential race.

The political ties between Prabowo and Megawati soured soon after, however, after Megawati expressed anger with him for supposedly taking credit for Joko’s victory in the capital.

The PDI-P’s decision to nominate Joko is a profound blow to Prabowo’s campaign to win the presidency, which various polls showed was the most likely outcome if he ran in a field that did not include the fiercely popular Jakarta governor.

During Gerindra’s campaign rally in Jakarta on Sunday, Prabowo read a poem about how a liar should not be chosen as a leader. The poem also mentioned a leader who was well-mannered but less than honest.

Suhardi denied speculation that the poem was addressed at Joko.

“There was no need to name anyone,” he said. “The poem was meant to wake people up that manners should not trump honesty, because honesty is the ultimate requirement to be a leader.”

Suhardi said that through the poem Prabowo was trying to convey that a leader needed to have sufficient capabilities and it was not enough just be popular and likable.

Prior to Joko’s entry into the presidential race, Prabowo was seen as the candidate to beat. However, many say his bid could end before it begins due to a lack of party support.

The PDI-P won 14 percent of the vote in 2009, while Gerindra only garnered 4.5 percent.

Under electoral law, a party or coalition needs to win 25 percent of the legislative vote, or control 20 percent of seats at the House of Representatives, ti be eligible to nominate a presidential candidate.

Analysts say Prabowo burned his bridges with the PDI-P by glorifying his role in last year’s Jakarta gubernatorial race.

Although she did not mention Prabowo by name, Megawati blasted “free riders” taking credit for Joko’s victory.

Previously Prabowo, in an apparent attack against Joko, had cautioned voters not to choose a “puppet presidential candidate.”

Polls have consistently shown if Joko wasn’t running, Prabowo would be the clear favorite to win the election.

A team named the New Jakarta Advocacy Team, which supported Joko and his deputy, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, in their gubernatorial campaign in 2012, said last week that they would file a lawsuit against Joko for accepting the presidential nomination.

The group demanded that Joko remain in his post until the end of his term in 2017.

New Jakarta Advocacy Team coordinator Habiburokhman said the team had supported Joko in becoming the governor, and it expected him to repay that support by seeing out his terms and promises.

Habiburokhman, who is also the head of Gerindra’s advocacy unit, said Joko was legally bound to his promises because they were the basis for his winning in 2012.

Firman Noor, a political analyst from the Indonesia Institute of Sciences, or LIPI, said that the public’s disappointment regarding Joko’s decision to accept the presidential nomination could serve as ammunition for his rivals.

The verbal attacks are mainly aimed at Joko’s integrity, who during his gubernatorial campaign promised to serve as governor for the full five-year term and to help overcome Jakarta’s problems.

Another strategy to hurt Joko’s credibility is through the lawsuit filed by the New Jakarta Advocacy Team, Firman said.

Dono Prasetyo, chairman of the Jokowi National Secretariat, a supporters’ group, said the lawsuit was a blatant attempt by rivals to smear the governor.

Habiburokhman denied that the lawsuit was a smear campaign, but insisted it was a form of support for Joko to remain as Jakarta’s governor because he had been working well.

He said Joko’s popularity in part came from a “man of the people” image and a willingness to go out and visit poor communities.