2018 Asian Games

A Second-by-Second Breakdown of the Hug That Restored Indonesia's Faith In Politics

So are Jokowi and Prabowo BFFs now?
August 31, 2018, 11:45am
Photo from Prabowo Subianto's official Instagram. instagram pribadi Prabowo Subianto

There's been no shortage of dramatic moments at this year's Asian Games, from the stunning opening ceremony to Jonatan Christie's triumphant Gold medal badminton win over Taiwan's Chou Tienchen. But the biggest moment so far didn't happen on the badminton courts, the track, or even the pool. It happened in the stands as President Joko Widodo and his longtime rival Prabowo Subianto came together in an embrace sweeter than anything we've seen all year, sinetron finales included.

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The heartwarming—yet strange—moment was initiated by Hanifan Yudani Kusumah, a pencak silat athlete who chose to celebrate his own Gold medal by turning it into arguably the most iconic icebreaker in Indonesian politics to-date.

It's no secret that the tensions of the 2019 election are already heating up in Indonesia. This is the second time Jokowi and Prabowo will duke it out for Istana Merdeka, and all signs are pointing to an even rougher campaign the second time around.

But can a hug change all of that? Hanifan sure hopes so.

"I asked them to hug so the people of Indonesia realize that there’s no beef between Jokowi and Prabowo," Hanifan told Bola.com. "That’s my only motivation. From my point of view, as a man of Indonesian pencak silat, it’s all about brotherhood. We all need to uphold peace. We’re one nation, we can't be divided over unimportant stuff."

I'll be honest, the first time I saw Jokowi and Prabowo's awkward hug, I burst out laughing in disbelief. But I also felt something warm stir inside. Did this reconciliation finally turn me into a patriot, a true nationalist? No. Well, maybe almost.

Here's where it all began. Hanifan, Indonesia's pencak silat champion, walked up to the VIP section to share the joy of this proud moment. He first shook hands with current Vice President Jusuf Kalla before quickly showing the rest of the world that Hanifan doesn't shake. Hanifan hugs.

He squeezed Kalla tight, then hugged Prabowo as well. It reminded me of the movie the Parent Trap, where the divorced parents were forced to be civil for their kid's talent show. During all six seconds of Prabowo's hug, Jokowi was forced to stand there and watch, perhaps wondering, "where's my hug?"

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Patience, president. The hug, and so much more, was coming in a second. Hanifan reached over and grabbed Jokowi's shoulder, pulling him in for a group hug with his biggest rival.

The crowd started to go wild at this point. Was it really going to happen? You can see the smile on both of their faces as Hanifan pulls them in for the complete embrace. Jokowi dropped his head, perhaps letting go of all that stress and just succumbing to the moment.

The only person in the stadium who didn't seem moved by the event was the man in black standing next to Prabowo, a man I can only assume was his body guard. Just look at that face of stone.

Hanifan squeezed both men tight, pulling Jokowi and Prabowo closer than they probably ever been in their lives. Jokowi just seemeed to melt. And Prabowo? Just look at his face. When's the last time you've seen him this content? If this was a Hollywood movie and Jokowi and Prabowo had just broken up, then this would be the moment when they decided, "we can definitely work this out." Has there ever been a cuter moment in Indonesian politics? Doubt it.

Then things get awkward again. Hanifan, having decided that the hug went on long enough, walked away, leaving Jokowi and Prabowo just standing there in shock. You can totally see Jokowi look straight at Prabowo as Hanifan walked away, seemingly saying, "hang on… what did we just do?" with his eyes.

Jokowi was still in shock at the press conference that followed as he stumbled through his answer. Was he feeling weak in the knees? Embarrassed?

"Back there… I was… hugged by Hanifan," Jokowi told the media, repeating the same exact sentence three times before saying, "next to me was Prabowo and unexpectedly he wanted a group hug. It reeked. Reeked of victory. Anything smells good when you win."

It was a spontaneous act, but also one that hopefully meant something. Despite their bitter rivalries, maybe Jokowi and Prabowo actually care, or at least respect, each other as people and politicians. How sweet.

Too bad we didn't have Hanifan around in 2014 when the last election got real ugly. But maybe we can pull him back out if the coming 2019 presidential race takes a dark turn again. Because everyone needs a moment to come together and cool off, and sometimes it takes a fighter to make it all happen.