To many Indonesian voters, a Prabowo presidency is really Jokowi 3.0


Political powwow: Jokowi (right) having an obviously friendly meal in Menteng, Central Jakarta. — Instagram/@prabowo

THAT Prabowo Subianto is leading the pack for next month’s presidential race in Indonesia is thanks in no small measure to his campaign platform, which vows to protect and continue the legacy of outgoing President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo.

Prabowo is channelling Jokowi, and more and more voters are falling for it.

The Defence Minister has no qualms about portraying himself as heir apparent to Jokowi, who will step down in October after 10 years in power. For his part, Jokowi has openly given his blessing to his erstwhile rival and used his still-high approval rating to give Prabowo an edge against the two other contenders. A case in point was when he moved to make it possible for his 36-year-old eldest son and Sukarta Mayor Gibran Rakabumi Raka to become Prabowo’s running mate, circumventing the candidacy age of 40 years in the General Elec-tions Law.

While it is not clear what kind of a deal Prabowo and Jokowi have struck over this year’s election, many voters are warming to the idea of a Prabowo presidency, primarily because of the strong support he is receiving from the incumbent.

Prabowo’s electability, according to all reliable surveys, soared quickly in November after he named Gibran as his vice president. With just one month to go until the election, the Prabowo-Gibran ticket is aiming to win the election in a single round, and they might just succeed.

A survey published last week by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies shows the pair is leading at 43.7%. Former Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan is second at 26.1%, and former Central Java governor Ganjar Pranowo is trailing in third at 19.4%.

In the eyes of many voters, a Prabowo presidency is really Jokowi 3.0. At 72, the retired Army general has seen his best years and is visibly ailing. Gib-ran, on the other hand, is still too young and inexperienced to lead a country of 280 million people. Analysts and voters expect Jokowi to have a strong say in the Prabowo administration, in whatever position he gets. This is also the reason why many voters will cast their ballots for Pra-bowo after voting against him in both 2014 and 2019 in favour of Jokowi.

In a recent interview, Prabowo said this would be his last bid for the presidency and that he would retire if he lost. This time around, however, he senses that victory is imminent. And while he is getting plenty of help, it is not because he has learned from his mistakes: He is simply embracing the man who defeated and humiliated him in two elections, trying to personify him as far as he can. This tactic goes back to October 2019, when he accepted Jokowi’s offer to serve as Defense Minister in the new Cabinet. He has also demonstrated his loyalty, not even once openly uttering anything bad about the Presi-dent. His strategy has paid off in winning Jokowi’s blessing and with it, the promised votes from millions of Jokowi supporters.

Prabowo’s vision and mission statement could easily have been written by Jokowi or his team. He promises continuity on virtually all of the incumbent’s policies. Most important to Jokowi is his promise to continue with the Nusantara Capital City project, and move the seat of government from Jakarta to the new capital currently being carved out of a forested area in East Kalimantan, Borneo.

The President has in the past justified his interventions, or “cawe-cawe” in Javanese, if they are for the good of the nation. And Jokowi has continued to remain popular, with most polls putting his approval rating at over 70%, which is exceptionally high for a president in the twilight of their second and final term. He is still in command of the coalition government, comprising seven of nine political parties in the House of Repre-sentatives. He also controls the Indonesian military, the National Police and the civil service, as well as the administrations of all provinces and regencies led by the interim heads he appointed.

Reports are emerging of local administrations, police officers and military personnel harassing Anies and Ganjar’s campaigns, despite the neutrality their leaders pledged. Anies has seen the authorities in several towns cancel his permits for rallies at the last minute, while Ganjar has seen military personnel beat one of his supporters black and blue during a rally in Central Java, the jurisdiction of his former gover-norship.

Those campaigning for Pra-bowo also use materials flaunting the President’s generous social assistance programme, which has been extended until June, to woo voters. For poor voters, this and other welfare programmes of the Jokowi government, including the national health and social security programme, matter the most.

For Jokowi, Prabowo succeeding him with Gibran in the wings is the next best thing, after he lost an earlier attempt at a Con-stitutional amendment that would allow him to run for a third term. It is also part and parcel of him building his political dynasty, literally from scratch. By helping Prabowo in the presidential race, he is paving the way for Jokowi 3.0. The question is, how many people will vote for this on Feb 14? – The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network

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