Hambalang's Pied Piper leading the marching morons

Hambalang's Pied Piper leading the marching morons
Prabowo Subianto.

Rats jump off a sinking ship, while lemmings leap from a cliff. A brooding analogy reminding us that the most dangerous politicians are not those with ambition, but those who are delusional. The rats have a pragmatic will to live, the lemmings seal their fate in self-deception.

Lemmings aren't actually suicidal. It is a myth popularised by a 1950s science-fiction novel The March of Morons where the protagonist recalls the migratory habit of lemmings to convince gullible people to move to a desolate planet.

As captain of a sinking ship, Prabowo Subianto may well go down with it. But it was plain to see that the rats began abandoning the ship days ago. And now he's acting as the Pied Piper of Hambalang leading his rogues into a political abyss.

It was a close election but with a wide enough margin. So wide that even with improprieties, the difference was too big for them to matter. One cannot cheat one's way to a margin of over 8.3 million votes.

The world has seen closer elections, with greater statesmanship shown by the vanquished.

In the 2010 Australian federal election, Julia Gillard's Labor Party won by a slim victory of less than 100,000 popular votes against Tony Abbott's Liberal-National Coalition. Both received 72 seats in parliament, and it was only with the support of independent MPs that Labor was able to form a government.

"I certainly am not going to let my disappointment blind me to the system that I respect," Abbott said in his concession speech.

The US Democratic Party's Al Gore decided not to prolong the infamous 2000 US presidential election. The US Supreme Court controversially halted the recount in Florida, which gave the electoral college seats of the Sunshine State to George W. Bush.

The difference in the Florida tally was reported at 0.00901 per cent, or 537 votes.

"While I strongly disagree with the court's decision, I will abide by it," Gore said, adding "we must begin healing the divisions."

A hawkish Prabowo on Tuesday seemed either incapable of reconciling the bitterness or of comprehending the political damage his belligerence is causing the nation.

It is said that a politician thinks of the next election, and a statesman of the next generation. Three years later Abbott eventually became Australia's 28th prime minister, while Gore rose to be a respected global statesman.

Prabowo has proven himself to be neither a politician nor a statesman.

The nation wants to move on. To realise the hope that has been engendered, to mend rifts that have torn friends apart. Even Prabowo's former father-in-law, the late former president Soeharto, recognised when his time was up.

Prabowo's camp has until Friday to submit a challenge to the Constitutional Court, after which a hearing will be held three days later, before a verdict is handed down within 14 working days.

Yet we should not be surprised, or even worried. It would not be Indonesian politics without histrionics and contrariness.

In 2009 Prabowo, as running mate of Megawati Soekarnoputri, also rejected the result of the presidential election by refusing to officially sign the final tally. The two now stand on opposite extremes.

Meanwhile Jusuf Kalla, having been on the ticket since 2004, is the Jimmy Connors of the Indonesian political scene. Having been on a winning and a losing ticket, he is not only the elder statesman but one of the eldest statesman to occupy either of the top-two executive posts.

When he is sworn in as vice president for the second time on Oct. 20, Kalla will be 72 years young, surpassed only by Soeharto who was 77 years old during his final presidential tenure in 1998.

Perhaps it is not Prabowo himself who is being contumacious. The failed presidential candidate, should he choose to do so, has a vast estate in Hambalang, Bogor, to which to retire, and his Gerindra Party is the third-largest in the House of Representatives with 73 seats.

His cohorts have more to lose: United Development Party (PPP) chairman Suryadharma Ali is facing corruption charges; Golkar Party chairman Aburizal Bakrie is facing a mutiny within his party; the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) is losing support with its leaders indicted for corruption; while Crescent Star Party (PBB) chairman MS Kaban is under investigation for graft.

Hence, while we should respect Prabowo's right to submit a challenge through the courts, the nation need not wait for him to begin the healing process. Nor should president-elect Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and Kalla suspend their preparations for governance.

It is time for the nation to move on. Let bygones be bygones, and leave the "marching morons" to their own devices.

As Indonesians we should say, "the dog may bark but the caravan moves on", and a barking dog doesn't bite.

A few days before the July 9 presidential election, The Jakarta Post broke tradition by endorsing Jokowi's candidacy. It was in part inspired by 18th-century British statesman Edmund Burke's warning that for good to triumph one cannot stand by and do nothing.

Prabowo's theatrics on Tuesday remind us of another Burke adage that "magnanimity in politics is not seldom the truest wisdom; and a great empire and little minds go ill together".

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