Indonesian defense chief Prabowo declares 2024 presidential bid

Nazarudin Latif
Indonesian defense chief Prabowo declares 2024 presidential bid Indonesian Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto, who was the former general of the Indonesian Army Special Forces, gestures while attending the Gerindra Party leaders’ national meeting in Bogor, Indonesia, Aug. 12, 2022.
Reuters/Willy Kurniawan

Indonesian Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto declared his intention to run in the 2024 presidential election on Friday, accepting a nomination from the country’s second largest party, which he founded.

This will be the third consecutive presidential run for Prabowo, a former Army special forces commander who served under autocratic Indonesian leader Suharto, then his father-in-law. Prabowo lost to Joko “Jokowi” Widodo in the two previous presidential races.

“I hereby declare with a sense of duty that I accept your nomination as a candidate for president of the Republic of Indonesia,” Prabowo said in a speech at the Gerindra Party’s national leadership meeting in Sentul, a town just south of Jakarta.

“We want to fight to build a better future for our children, for Indonesian youths,” he said.

Jokowi, his current boss, will not be running in the next general election because of term limits mandated by the constitution.

Prabowo, 70, announced his new bid for Indonesia’s highest office after Gerindra’s provincial representatives agreed to nominate him as its presidential candidate. He is the party’s chairman and founder.

“The Gerindra Party Regional Leadership Councils throughout Indonesia are unanimous in nominating Mr Prabowo as the Gerindra Party’s presidential candidate for 2024,” said Sufmi Dasco Ahmad, the party’s executive chair.

Indonesians are set to go to the polls on Feb. 14, 2024 to select the country’s next president, members of the national parliament and local councils. 

The election is expected to be hotly contested as no potential candidate polled higher than 30 percent in recent surveys, analysts said. A run-off would be held on June 26, 2024, if no candidate secures more than 50 percent of the vote.

Prabowo, Central Java provincial Gov. Gandjar Pranowo and Jakarta Gov. Anies Baswedan are among potential contenders for the next presidential election, according to recent privately-conducted opinion polls.

A survey by Indonesia Polling Stations (IPS) this week showed that 30.2 percent of respondents said they would vote for Prabowo, 19.8 percent for Ganjar and 18.9 percent for Baswedan.

Nominating Prabowo again could boost Gerindra’s general election chances because he remains the party’s most popular politician, said a political analyst in Jakarta.

“By nominating Prabowo, Gerindra stands a chance of finishing second again in the legislative election after the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle. His impact is huge,” said Djayadi Hanan, executive director of the Indonesian Survey Institute (LSI), a private pollster.

Djayadi said Prabowo’s support base had expanded after he joined the Jokowi government as defense minister.

“As part of President Jokowi’s cabinet, Prabowo also has attracted some of Jokowi’s supporters,” he said.

Usep Saepul Ahyar, a senior researcher at the Populi Center, another polling agency, said Prabowo had a loyal voter base who would keep voting for him.

“So far, Prabowo’s loyal voters are in Banten, West Java, West Sumatra,” he told BenarNews.

Gerindra Party members queue to enter the venue of the national meeting of its leaders, as a picture of party chief Prabowo Subianto is seen in the background, in Bogor, West Java province, Indonesia, Aug. 12, 2022. [Reuters/Willy Kurniawan]

Following the 1998 resignation of the dictator Suharto amid political and economic upheavals, the army discharged Prabowo for his alleged role in the kidnapping of political activists as commander of the army special forces (Kopassus). The late President Suharto, a former army chief, had ruled Indonesia for 32 years.

Prabowo has denied committing or being a party to any human rights violations. 

Syaiful Huda, deputy secretary general of the National Awakening Party (PKB), said that a coalition with Gerindra would be announced this coming weekend.

The PKB was founded by clerics from Nahdlatul Ulama, the largest Islamic organization in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country.

“It will be formalized in a joint declaration with the signing of a cooperation agreement,” Huda said.

Jazilul Fawaid, the PKB deputy chairman, said his party and Gerindra could “complement each other, one being a religious party, the other nationalist.”  

The Golkar Party, the National Mandate Party and the United Development Party have formed the United Indonesia Coalition in order to be eligible to field a presidential candidate, because the bloc controls 27 percent of seats in the House of Representatives.

Under Indonesian electoral law, political parties or coalitions may nominate a presidential candidate only if they hold at least 20 percent of House seats or have garnered 25 percent of the vote in the previous election.

Campaigning for the 2024 election would be cut to 75 days, from the six months allowed in the previous two electoral cycles, so as to reduce divisiveness and law-and-order issues, the electoral commission has said. 

Supporters of rival candidates had marred previous campaigns across the archipelago country by exchanging religious or ethnic slurs. 


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