JAKARTA, Indonesia—Indonesia’s defeated presidential candidate met the winner and president-elect Jokowi Widodo on Friday for the first time since the bitterly contested polls in July, in a sign that political tensions in the Southeast Asian nation might be thawing.
Prabowo Subianto congratulated Widodo on his victory and promised to support his government as long as his policies are in line with “the interests of the nation and people.” Until the meeting at the home of Prabowo’s father, the wealthy Suharto-era general had refused to concede defeat and sought, unsuccessfully, to overturn the election results in the courts.
Jokowi will be inaugurated president on Monday
Prabowo heads a coalition that controls the largest block of legislators in the parliament. That has raised concerns Jokowi might be obstructed in his legislative agenda or even face impeachment. Jokowi, who won the July polls with 54 per cent of the vote, will take office on Monday.
He will need all the support he can get to enact policies to get Southeast Asia’s largest economy back on a growth track in the face of slowing demand in China for the country’s natural resources and possible capital outflows if interest rates go up in the United States. He is also committed to cutting fuel subsidies, a politically sensitive move but one that all economists say is essential if the country wants to free up funds for spending on education and infrastructure needed to attract investment.
Last month, legislators loyal to Prabowo voted to scrap direct elections for local officials, triggering anger at what many regarded as a grave setback to democracy. Jokowi, a former furniture salesman and the first national leader with no ties to the country’s political and military elite, rose to national prominence himself after being directly elected a regional governor.
Prabowo has a poor human rights record and close ties to the elite that governed the country during the Suharto years. Many democracy activists have expressed fears that he would go to any lengths to secure the presidency. His refusal to concede defeat had only added to those concerns.