Indonesia: The road ahead for Prabowo Subianto - Hindustan Times

Indonesia: The road ahead for Prabowo Subianto

ByRahul Mishra
Mar 16, 2024 04:49 PM IST

This article is authored by Rahul Mishra.

Having secured almost 60% of the counted national votes so far, Indonesia’s current defence minister Prabowo Subianto, and Gibran Rakabuming Raka, his running mate and President Jokowi “Joko” Widodo’s son, are set to be declared the winner of the 2024 election in Indonesia. Prabowo is likely to assume the president’s office in October 2024 while Gibran will become the next vice president of the country. However, despite Prabowo-Gibran team doing fairly well in the election, the coalition parties, led by and supporting Prabowo-Gibran duo, could not manage to win a clear majority in the legislative election. Official announcement of the election results is still a few weeks away.

Prabowo Subianto gestures.(AFP) PREMIUM
Prabowo Subianto gestures.(AFP)

On the domestic front, the road ahead for Prabowo doesn’t seem difficult provided he manages to keep the opposition seats to the minimum possible numbers following Jokowi’s model of ‘grand coalition’. This, of course, comes with some challenges, including how the cabinet portfolios are distributed.

On several instances in the run-up to the election, Prabowo pledged to continue some of the policies launched by Jokowi. That Jokowi’s key policies are likely to continue during a Prabowo presidency is due to three reasons:

First, having served as a cabinet minister in Jokowi administration holding a key post of the defence minister, Prabowo has witnessed first-hand the success of an orderly governance model albeit not without flaws. This should serve as a point of reference for him. Prabowo has already promised to further implement big infrastructure plans and projects initiated by Jokowi including the shifting of the capital to Nusantara. He also seems supportive of social welfare and security initiatives taken by Jokowi.

Secondly, Jokowi’s policies are likely to be continued by his eldest son Gibran Rakabuming Raka who is all set to become the next vice president. Thirdly, Jokowi himself would like to see his legacy is carried forward. The support of his political party and the presence of his son, and possibly other colleagues as well, in the Prabowo government will ensure Jokowi’s continued relevance in Indonesian politics.

However, key ministers of the Jokowi government have not been very comfortable working with Prabowo. The list includes the foreign affairs minister Retno Marsudi, finance minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati, and public works and housing minister Basuki Hadimuljono. It remains to be seen whether these leaders will join the Prabowo government. These key portfolios will shape the overall nature of the Prabowo government.

Prabowo’s family linkages and career history are also likely to play a role in shaping his presidential term. Prabowo is married to former president Suharto’s daughter, while his father Sumitro Djojohadikusumo, a noted economist, served as former president Sukarno's minister for the economy and Suharto's minister for research and technology. The family legacy has not only shaped Prabowo’s political ambitions but is likely to shape his policies as well.

Prabowo’s proposal at the Shangri-La defence ministers’ dialogue, to create a demilitarised zone and use a United Nations referendum to settle the Russia-Ukraine conflict, drew a lot of criticism both home and abroad could be seen as an example of his ambition to make a mark in international affairs as well. His sour personal relations with the United States (US) on his human rights records is another factor that will shape the Indonesia-US ties. During Jokowi’s two terms as president, Indonesia-US ties grew from strength to strength. It remains to be seen whether the US will be willing to embrace Prabowo and his government with the same warmth. While he seems keen to work with China on infrastructure projects, his views on the South China Sea dispute should also be factored in.

The bigger challenges before him, though, would be on how he follows through on his defence expenditure plans and keeps the Indonesian economy growing at a sustainable pace. Indonesian Gross Domestic Product has been growing at around 5% per annum – a remarkable feat, which needed deft economic policies and management. Managing the sustained economic growth momentum is a task Prabowo needs to pay close attention to. Taking a step beyond Jokowi’s downstreaming policy is expected by many Indonesia watchers. Compared to Jokowi who focussed more on economic growth and welfare, Prabowo seems more inclined to prioritise Indonesia’s defence and its standing in regional and global affairs. His ‘Indonesia First’ pledge, articulated during the election campaign, is a sign that a more nationalistic tilt in Indonesian foreign policy is likely to be witnessed.

Overall, it seems likely that Probowo will continue the key policies of the Jokowi administration while adding his own preferences and policies. It remains to be seen how he blends the two and keeps his electoral promises.

This article is authored by Rahul Mishra, senior research fellow, German-Southeast Asian Center of Excellence for Public Policy and Good Governance (CPG), Thammasat University, Thailand and associate professor, Centre for Indo-Pacific Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

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