JAKARTA (AFP) – Indonesia’s defeated presidential candidate Friday urged his supporters to back winner Joko Widodo as the pair met for the first time since the bitterly fought poll, signalling a thaw that could help the incoming leader enact much-needed reforms.
Ex-general Prabowo Subianto congratulated Widodo, known by his nickname Jokowi, and the pair shook hands and embraced after the meeting in the capital Jakarta.
Widodo won a decisive victory over Prabowo in the July election, which was the most closely fought that the world’s third-biggest democracy had ever seen, and he is the country’s first leader without deep roots in the era of dictator Suharto.
However Prabowo, who had been seeking the presidency for more than a decade, only grudgingly conceded defeat, and parties that backed him at the poll have since been flexing their muscles in parliament, raising fears that Widodo may not be able to push through his reform agenda.
Prabowo’s backers used their parliamentary majority to win key positions in the legislature and voted to abolish the direct election of local leaders, a measure Widodo had opposed and which rolled back a key democratic reform of the post-Suharto era.
But after much criticism of his behaviour, the ex-general met Widodo on Friday, and the pair appeared smiling at a press conference afterwards.
“During a meeting that was full of friendship, I congratulated him,” said the ex-general, who has a chequered human rights record and used to be married to one of Suharto’s daughters.