Indonesian presidential hopeful Prabowo Subianto is confident he can bring about the change that citizens desire and run a clean government that will still be business-friendly while improving the lives of ordinary people.
“They are fed up with corruption. It’s just too much. They see injustice, they see that they don’t have access to basic rights, clean water, good health system, good education … there’s no hope for the young of Indonesia,” said the 67-year-old former general, who lost his two previous bids and is gunning for the top job for the third time.
Prabowo made this pledge in Singapore on Tuesday at a dinner organised by The Economist publication, where Malaysia’s Member of Parliament Nurul Izzah and Grab co-founder Anthony Tan were also speakers.
A day earlier, Prabowo met the city state’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, with both men discussing how their countries could strengthen ties, Lee said.
Campaigning for Indonesia’s presidential election next May is heating up. Prabowo and multimillionaire entrepreneur Sandiaga Uno are facing off against incumbent Joko Widodo and his running mate, Islamic cleric Ma’ruf Amin.
The Prabowo-Sandiaga pair have criticised the government of Jokowi, as he is popularly known, for rising consumer prices and anchored their campaign on wealth sharing.
They have also taken a more nationalistic approach to Chinese investments in Indonesia, saying while they welcome foreign help to improve the country’s crumbling infrastructure, it must bring real benefits to the nation and its citizens.
There have been worries the billions in aid Indonesia has received from China amount to “debt-trap” diplomacy and rumours have swirled that construction jobs are going to Chinese labourers, many of them illegal.
Meanwhile, though former furniture businessman Jokowi has maintained a squeaky clean reputation, graft continues to dog Indonesia’s political and business circles.
In last year’s Corruption Perception Index by Transparency International, Indonesia scored 37 and placed 96th out of 180 countries, where 0 points was for highly corrupt and 100 for least corrupt. In comparison, New Zealand topped with list and scored 89, Singapore ranked 6th at 84 points and Malaysia scored 47 at 62nd place.
The country’s anti-corruption agency, known as the KPK, has cracked down on several high-profile individuals in recent months but analysts say the dragnet has not been cast as wide as it needs to be.
“The need to compromise with Indonesia’s old guard political elites has seen Jokowi’s once-stellar anti-corruption credentials take a series of hits during his time in office,” Hugo Brennan, a senior politics analyst for Asia at Verisk Maplecroft, told Bloomberg.
“The KPK’s corruption crackdown will do Jokowi’s re-election chances no harm, as long as no close allies in his government are caught up in scandal ahead of April 2019,” he added.
On the sidelines of the Tuesday event, Prabowo pledged to assemble “a team of the best and brightest sons and daughters of Indonesia, who have high integrity and will not be corrupt”.
Polls done in September, however, found incumbent Widodo had the backing of 60.2 per cent of those surveyed by political think tank Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting (SMRC) compared to 28.7 per cent for Prabowo.
Still, Prabowo remains hopeful, given Malaysia’s change of government this year following the 1MDB corruption scandal. “So there can be peaceful reform, there can be peaceful change by the ballot box,” he said.
Nurul Izzah, 38, also spoke about the peaceful transition Malaysia experienced after the May 9 election ended 60 years of rule under the Barisan Nasional coalition, led by former Prime Minister Najib Razak who is now facing multiple money-laundering charges.
Nurul Izzah, whose father is Malaysia’s prime-minister-in-waiting Anwar Ibrahim and her mother Wan Azizah Wan Ismail is the current deputy prime minister, said Malaysia was home to one of the biggest kleptocratic scandals and people were disgusted by 1MDB and felt the resulting impact of inflation.
Pointing to the judiciary, the rule of law, and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, Nurul Izzah said to the audience of about 200 people: “There was so much control by the Prime Minister’s Office that it was very difficult to check against the excesses of the government … and there has to be a systemic reform that we initiate if not you’re going to see 1MDB 2.0.”
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