Presidential election in Indonesia Ex General Subianto wins first round

Presidential election in Indonesia: Ex-General Subianto wins first round

Incumbent Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto, who has a controversial military past, claimed a “victory” in the first round of Indonesia's presidential election on Wednesday evening after early forecasts had him comfortably ahead.

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“All counts, all polls… showed that (the ticket) Prabowo-Gibran won in one round. This victory should be a victory for all Indonesians,” the former general said during a speech in a huge room in Jakarta alongside his vice president Gibran Rakabuming Raka, the outgoing president's eldest son.

Estimates suggest that Prabowo Subianto, the big pre-election favorite, will receive around 57% of the vote, putting him in a position to be elected in the first round.

Even though he would claim victory next October to succeed Joko Widodo at the helm of the world's third democracy, the former general indicated he would wait for the electoral commission's “official result,” expected in March.

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

“I would like to thank the young people who are a crucial support,” he also said in his speech, which he concluded with a dance on stage – a reference to the scene broadcast on TikTok that went viral during the campaign .

Although human rights violations were alleged under the Suharto dictatorship (1967-1998), the 72-year-old former general was set to take command of Southeast Asia's leading economy in the late 1990s after ten years in power Joko Widodo, nicknamed Jokowi, who is no longer in office could represent himself.

The defense minister is well ahead of Anies Baswedan, the former governor of Jakarta, and Ganjar Pranowo, the former governor of Central Java, in the order.

“We are waiting for the Electoral Commission count to be completed. Don’t rush, relax, there is still a long way to go,” replied Anies Baswedan.

The Ganjar Pranowo camp, in turn, denounced “structured, systematic and massive” electoral fraud without providing any evidence, according to a spokesman.

To win in the first round, you must receive 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 given these numbers I'm relatively confident he (Prabowo Subianto) doesn't need a second round,” said Justin Hastings, a professor of international relations at the University of Sydney.

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

Although a section of the population is sensitive to his nationalist discourse, the prospect of Prabowo Subianto's presidency has raised concerns about a possible setback in democratic gains.

“I want to have a leader who will uphold democracy,” adviser Debbie Sianturi said before the vote in Jakarta.

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

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

Jokowi's legacy

Prabowo Subianto, running for the third time, developed nationalist and populist rhetoric and promised to continue President Jokowi's policies. Other candidates and student movements accused the latter of trying to use state resources to influence the election in favor of his minister.

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

Because of these allegations, the ex-soldier's visa was revoked by the USA and Australia for a long time.

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

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

Prabowo Subianto topped the polls with the nomination for vice president from Gibran Rakabuming Raka, 36, Jokowi's eldest son.

Theoretically too young, Gibran Rakabuming Raka was only able to run after a controversial decision by the Constitutional Court, which was approved thanks to the decisive vote of the court's president, Anwar Usman, brother-in-law of Joko Widodo.

After ten years in power, he leaves his successor a country that registers a constant growth of 5.05% in 2023, certainly a slight decrease compared to 5.3% in 2022.