Jakarta — President Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo is widely known as ‘man of the people’ whose common touch had made him a political phenomenon. He rose to the presidency in October 2014, along with his running mate Jusuf Kalla, and is now seeking reelection in April of next year. On Wednesday (23/5) the President appeared to show that he truly upholds the principle to ‘give credit where credit’s due’. Jokowi surprisingly appointed one of his captious critics to join the office of the Presidential Chief of Staff (KSP).
The appointee is Ali Mochtar Ngabalin, a former House (DPR) member and was the ‘political director’ for the campaign team for Prabowo Subianto, the former army general narrowly lost to Jokowi in the 2014 election. And now, Prabowo has been selected by his own Gerindra Party for a ‘rematch’ against Jokowi next year.
What raised many eyebrows was the fact that the 49-year old Ali Mochtar was also a strong, vocal supporter of hard-line religious-based organization Islam Defenders Front (FPI) and its firebrand leader Rizieq Shihab who claimed that President Jokowi was not ‘pro-Islam’. FPI and other radical Muslim organizations were said to be behind the failure of Jokowi’s ally, Basuki ‘Ahok’ Tjahaja Purnama, to retain his Jakarta gubernatorial post in the April 2017 regional election. Ahok is currently serving his two-year jail term for blasphemy.
On why President Jokowi appointed Ali Mochtar for the KSP office, its head Moeldoko, who is former Armed Forces (TNI) commander, said, “For the government, there is no political opponent. All are partners in democracy.” Meanwhile, KSP deputy Eko Sulistyo said his office needed a political communication expert like Ali Mochtar who could develop smooth interactions with ‘pesantren’ education centers and other religious-based groups. This is according to a Kompas.com report.
The eloquent speaker Ali Mochtar hails from West Papua, the region President Joko Jokowi has given a special attention with his large-scale development programs. Ali Mochtar obtained his master’s degree in communication from state-owned Universitas Indonesia in Depok, on the outskirts of Jakarta. He also served as a DPR member from Partai Bulan Bintang (PBB) in the 2004-2009 period before joining the Golkar Party and then Prabowo’s Gerindra Party. Before entering politics, Ali Mochtar worked as a journalist and preached at prayer sessions.