In a surprising turn of events, President Joko Widodo, widely known as Jokowi, engaged in a closed-door meeting with the 6th President of Indonesia, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY), at the Bogor Palace, West Java, on Monday night (October 2, 2023). This significant rendezvous came to light after Jokowi inaugurated the Jakarta-Bandung Whoosh High-Speed Train at Halim Station, East Jakarta. The speculation surrounding this meeting escalated when Jokowi, accompanied by a man presumed to be SBY, was spotted leaving a car at around 6:00 PM in Bogor, West Java, on Monday, October 2, 2023.
Kamhar Lakumani, the Deputy Head of the Election Campaign Team of the Democratic Party (Partai Demokrat), confirmed the meeting between Jokowi and SBY. According to him, the discussion revolved around national politics and state affairs, emphasizing the significance of political camaraderie between the two leaders. Despite Kamhar’s statement, the public’s speculation intensified, especially amidst rumors of a cabinet reshuffle and escalating political dynamics ahead of the presidential and vice presidential candidate registrations.
Political analyst Arifki Chaniago from Aljabar Strategic perceived the meeting as a strategic move, indicating a narrative game played by both parties. Arifki suggested that Jokowi and SBY might be strategizing to respond to the narrative that SBY had yet to meet the Chairwoman of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP), Megawati Soekarnoputri. Furthermore, Arifki speculated that the meeting might entail discussions about the possibility of the Democratic Party aligning with the government and securing ministerial positions in the Indonesia Maju Cabinet.
Arifki acknowledged the potential benefits for both parties in the case of a political deal. For the Democratic Party, this could open the door to government participation, possibly by appointing Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono (AHY) as a minister. On the other hand, Jokowi would gain independence from complete reliance on PDIP, especially considering the recent move of Jokowi’s youngest son, Kaesang Pangarep, to become the Chairman of the Indonesian Solidarity Party (PSI) rather than joining PDIP.
The meeting also raised questions about the potential exit of the Nasdem and PKB parties from the government. Arifki suggested that the meeting might be an ultimatum from Jokowi to provide room for new coalition parties to enter the government or a firm stance from PKB and Nasdem to maintain their electoral leverage by daring to leave the government and establish an opposition front.
Silvanus Alvin, a political analyst from Multimedia Nusantara University (UMN), provided several interpretations of the meeting. Firstly, he viewed the meeting as a sign of Jokowi’s efforts to foster good relations with current and past political figures, aiming to create political stability and unity among party elites. Secondly, he suggested that the meeting could be used by the Democratic Party to shift their political narrative from change to continuing Jokowi’s development projects.
Alvin’s third point was the possibility of the meeting opening doors for the Democratic Party to join the Jokowi administration, especially considering the ongoing issues involving several ministers. However, Alvin believed that a cabinet reshuffle might not occur in the near future due to Jokowi’s reluctance to change the cabinet amid heated political circumstances.
In response to the speculation, Kamhar reiterated that the Jokowi-SBY meeting had no connection with the cabinet reshuffle. He emphasized that the meeting focused on national unity and had no bearing on the reshuffle issue.
Members of parties within the government also responded cautiously. Ahmad Doli Kurnia, the Vice Chairman of Partai Golkar, acknowledged that cabinet reshuffles were within the President’s prerogative. Ahmad Muzani, the Secretary-General of the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Partai Gerindra), echoed similar sentiments, emphasizing that cabinet restructuring fell under the President’s authority in the presidential system of government.
In essence, the meeting between Jokowi and SBY, while shrouded in speculation, marks a crucial moment in Indonesian politics. It signifies the intricate dance of political maneuvering, where alliances are forged, narratives are reshaped, and the future political landscape of Indonesia hangs in a delicate balance. As the nation awaits further developments, one thing remains certain: the political winds are shifting, and Indonesia’s political arena is poised for a new chapter, the outcome of which will undoubtedly shape the nation’s destiny.