Indonesia's new senior minister embarks on post-election reconciliation trail

Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Hadi Tjahjanto (right) enters the house of his predecessr Mahfud MD (left) in Jakarta on Feb 22, 2024 for a closed-door meeting to discuss unresolved affairs when the latter resigned from the coordinating ministerial position on Feb 1. - Antara

JAKARTA: In his first official day as the country’s new coordinating political, legal and security affairs minister, Hadi Tjahjanto paid a visit to the leadership of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the country’s largest Islamic organisation; a move experts said demonstrated the government’s focus on post-election reconciliation efforts.

President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo promoted Hadi from agrarian and spatial planning minister to his new post on Wednesday (Feb 21). The coordinating minister then went the following day to the NU’s central board (PBNU) in its Central Jakarta office to meet with the organisation chairman Yahya Cholil Staquf.

After the meeting, Hadi told reporters that his visit was part of the government’s efforts at reconciliation after the Feb 14 general election, in which Gerindra Party patron and incumbent Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto garnered an unassailable lead, according to various quick counts by credible pollsters.

“The PBNU is a massive organisation,” the former Indonesian Military (TNI) commander said in a statement issued by his office on Thursday.

“That’s why it has a big role to contribute [in maintaining] a conducive situation after the presidential and legislative elections.”

Among important agenda items for Hadi in his new job is “continuing coordinating with important figures and mass organisations”, which he described as the nation’s key components that must be held closely.

After the meeting, Yahya told the press that the PBNU would be ready to work with the government to maintain a conducive environment after the elections.

The visit to PBNU was Hadi’s first call on his first full working day as the new chief security minister. After his inauguration on Wednesday, he held a meeting with National Police chief Gen. Listyo Sigit Prabowo and TNI commander Gen. Agus Subiyanto to talk about the country’s security situation.

The minister’s visit to the PBNU is part of a bigger plan by Jokowi’s administration to reconcile various parties following the Feb 14 election, said political analyst Adi Prayitno.

“The presidential election is not fully over, with many still feeling unhappy, or even outright hostile, over how the election turned out,” he said.

“[Hadi’s meeting] is an effort [by the government] to build bridges with large Muslim organisations to maintain political stability.”

Aside from instructing his ministers to conduct such meetings with various stakeholders, President Jokowi has also organised similar audiences himself.

Last weekend, Jokowi met with Surya Paloh, the chairman of NasDem Party which backed the presidential bid of former Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan in the 2024 race. After the weekend meeting, Jokowi told reporters that he wanted to play a “bridge-builder” role among the country’s political parties after the election.

Aside from meeting with the PBNU, Hadi also spent his first working day as coordinating minister meeting with his predecessor Mahfud MD. “[Mahfud] provided a lot of insights and inputs for ongoing problems that have not been resolved which, of course, I have to follow up on,” Hadi said of his second meeting on Thursday.

Mahfud responded by saying that his former ministry was now in capable hands. Mahfud resigned around three weeks before Hadi’s appointment to enable him to focus on running for vice president alongside Ganjar Pranowo, the presidential candidate fielded by the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P).

Claiming to have found evidence of electoral fraud, the Ganjar-Mahfud camp says it is preparing to lodge a challenge against the presidential election result with the Constitutional Court. The court will open a three-day registration period for electoral fraud complaints a day after the General Elections Commission (KPU) announces the election’s official result, expected by March 20.

Asked by reporters for his thoughts regarding the matter, Hadi said after his inauguration on Wednesday that authorities already had mechanisms in place to contest the election results.

“However, we still have to ensure that the situation remains [conducive]. If necessary, we will coordinate better [with the parties involved],” he said.

Hadi is Jokowi’s long-time ally. His connection with the President goes as far back as when he served as the commander of Adi Soemarmo Air Force base in Surakarta, Central Java, in 2010, when Jokowi was still the city’s mayor.

Jokowi later appointed Hadi to lead the TNI, becoming the longest-serving armed forces chief in the Reform era. After he retired from the military in 2022, the President took him into the cabinet as the agrarian and spatial planning minister. - The Jakarta Post/ANN

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