Sandiaga Uno wants to work with Jokowi

Indonesian vice-presidential candidate, Sandiaga Uno. (Bloomberg Photo)

One of Joko Widodo’s top political opponents said he’s open to working with the Indonesia president following a disputed election this month, raising hopes for a peaceful outcome.

Sandiaga Uno, the vice-presidential pick of challenger Prabowo Subianto, said in an interview he would put national interest first no matter what the outcome of the 17 April election.

Prabowo has refused to accept unofficial quick counts that show Widodo, known as Jokowi, has won a second term in office. Election authorities have until 22 May to release official results.

“The interest of the country is first and foremost,” Uno said when asked if he would consider a cabinet post if the count, as expected, confirms Jokowi wins again and makes an offer. “I want to contribute to the country.”

“It’s about how we can deliver the best impact,” he said in the interview, his first with international media since the vote. “It doesn’t have to really be in the government. It could be outside the government, but again I don’t want to speculate. We’ll have these conversations after 22 May.”

Uno, 49, is nearly two decades younger than Prabowo and has expressed a desire to remain in politics after amassing millions of dollars as a private equity investor. He denied any rift with Prabowo, who has made repeated allegations of electoral fraud that have spurred protests from his supporters.

Uno’s apparent willingness to work with Jokowi could dampen fears of a drawn-out legal fight over the election results that could hinder policy making as a second term begins. Jokowi is facing the challenge of spurring economic growth, keeping a lid on the costs of staples and creating jobs, especially for the country’s millennials and growing middle class.

Fears of unrest

With the official result possibly still weeks away, allegations from the Prabowo camp of mass fraud are continuing to overshadow the election. Claims of a conspiracy between the government and election authorities have prompted concerns about potential unrest, with the ructions also seen as risking Indonesia’s ability to lure much-needed foreign investment.

Unofficial quick counts from a dozen pollsters on the day of the vote gave the election to Jokowi, with the ongoing tally from Indonesia’s election commission mirroring that and showing him with a gap of about 10 percentage points.

“Let’s go to the real count and let’s make sure the process is fair, transparent and accountable,” Uno said.

Jokowi’s Security Affairs Minister Wiranto, who like many Indonesians uses only one name, has rejected the allegations of voter fraud as "unfounded". The former commander of the Indonesian military urged calm and asked the public to resist being "incited to take action".

No split

The president, meanwhile, is getting on with the business of government, and jockeying has already begun for positions in his next cabinet. On Thursday, chairman of the National Mandate Party (PAN) Zulkifli Hasan held talks with Jokowi in a meeting that’s raised speculation of the party regaining a position in the cabinet. It had been a member of Jokowi’s first-term coalition and held a cabinet post until August when it joined forces with Prabowo ahead of the election campaign.

Several PAN officials echoed Uno in dismissing suggestions of a split between Prabowo’s Gerindra party and the National Mandate Party.

“PAN is still firmly in coalition with Gerindra,” said Dradjad Wibowo, a senior member of PAN. "Our focus is still on vote counting. We found a large number of cases of vote rigging and abuse of power by many state apparatus.”

Long game

A successful investor who drained a sizeable chunk of his private equity fortune – he said in a previous interview he’d spent close to US$100 million – during the election campaign, Uno is now weighing his next move. “We have been able to energise the base,” he said, and it “shows that people are really asking for change.”

He insisted he is staying in politics. Still, while regarded as a potential future leader, he also risks seeing his presidential ambitions fade if he’s left without a political platform.

Uno made his fortune with PT Saratoga Investama Sedaya Tbk, an investment holding company he co-founded almost 20 years ago in the wake of the Asian financial crisis. The graduate of George Washington University said ahead of the vote he’d lost close to a third of his net worth, which until recently had been in the vicinity of US$360 million.

“I’m not going back to business, he said. "This is it." - Bloomberg