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Former general Prabowo Subianto claims presidential victory in Indonesia

Photo: Yasuyoshi Chiba Agence France-Presse Early projections place Prabowo Subianto, pictured here after casting his ballot, at over 55% of the vote, putting him in position to be elected in the first round.

Dessy Sagita – Agence France-Presse and Éric Bernaudeau – Agence France-Presse in Jakarta

February 14, 2024

  • Asia

The current Minister of Defense Prabowo Subianto, with a controversial military past, claimed Wednesday evening “victory” in the first round of the presidential election in Indonesia, after initial projections which placed him largely in the lead.

“All the counts, all the polls… showed that (the ticket) Prabowo-Gibran won in one round. This victory should be a victory for all Indonesians,” declared the ex-general, during a speech in a huge hall in Jakarta, alongside his running mate Gibran Rakabuming Raka, eldest son of the outgoing president.

Projections place Prabowo Subianto, the big favorite before the election, around 57% of the vote, putting him in a position to be elected in the first round.

Even if he claimed victory to succeed Joko Widodo next October at the head of the third democracy in the world, the former general indicated that he would wait for the “official result” of the electoral commission, expected in March.

“We think Indonesian democracy works well. The people have determined, the people have decided,” he told reporters, before calling for unity: “Now that the campaign is over, we must unite again.”

“I would like to thank young people, who are crucial supports,” he also declared in his speech, which he concluded with a dance on stage, a nod to the stage broadcast on TikTok which had gone viral during the campaign.

Although accused of human rights abuses under the Suharto dictatorship (1967-1998), at the end of the 1990s, this 72-year-old former general should therefore take command of the leading economy of Southeast Asia, after ten years of power of Joko Widodo, nicknamed Jokowi, who could no longer represent himself.

The Minister of Defense is well ahead, in order, of Anies Baswedan, former governor of Jakarta, and Ganjar Pranowo, former governor of Central Java.

“We are waiting for the Electoral Commission’s count to be completed. Don’t rush, relax, the road is still long,” Anies Baswedan reacted.

The Ganjar Pranowo camp, for its part, denounced “structured, systematic and massive” fraud during the elections, according to a spokesperson, without providing evidence.

To win in the first round, you must obtain more than 50% of the total votes and at least a fifth of the votes in more than half of the country's provinces.

“It depends on which areas the samples come from, but with those kinds of numbers, I'm relatively confident that he (Prabowo Subianto) won't need a second round,” said Justin Hastings, professor of international relations at the University of Sydney.

“Support for Jokowi was massive. Obviously he was there. Social assistance was distributed by the state apparatus… that is the main factor,” said Yoes Kenawas, a political analyst at the Atma Jaya Catholic University in Jakarta.

If part of the population is sensitive to his nationalist discourse, the prospect of Prabowo Subianto becoming president has raised concerns about a possible setback in democratic gains.

“I want to have a leader who will perpetuate democracy,” consultant Debbie Sianturi said before voting in Jakarta.

Prabowo Subianto “was a soldier, so I think he can be a real leader,” said Afhary Firnanda, a 28-year-old office worker living in the capital.

In addition to its president, Indonesia, a vast archipelago of 17,000 islands, had to elect 580 deputies and 20,000 regional and local representatives in a single day.

Jokowi’s legacy

A candidate for the third time, Prabowo Subianto developed a nationalist and populist rhetoric and pledged to continue the policies of President Jokowi. Other candidates and student movements accused the latter of having used state resources to try to influence the election in favor of his minister.

As head of special forces, Prabowo Subianto was accused by NGOs of ordering the kidnapping of pro-democracy activists in the 1990s, near the end of Suharto's regime. He denied these accusations and was never prosecuted.

For these allegations, the ex-soldier was deprived of a visa for a long time by the United States and Australia.

But thanks to a large presence on social networks, the man has softened his image among young Indonesians who often ignore the accusations against him and appreciate his commitment to continuing the policies of the very popular Jokowi.

“We have always had concerns about his true attachment to democracy,” analyzes Yoes Kenawas, researcher at the Catholic University Atma Jaya in Jakarta. “If he is elected, these questions will remain unanswered.”

Prabowo Subianto took off in the polls with the nomination alongside him for vice president of Gibran Rakabuming Raka, 36, Jokowi's eldest son.

Theoretically too young, Gibran Rakabuming Raka was only able to run following a controversial decision by the Constitutional Court, adopted thanks to the decisive vote of the president of the court, Anwar Usman, handsome -brother of Joko Widodo.

After 10 years in power, the latter will leave to his successor a country which is experiencing constant growth, of 5.05% in 2023, certainly a slight decline compared to 5.3% in 2022.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116