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HomeWorldQ&A: Indonesia’s Prabowo Subianto ‘confident’ of election victory | Elections

Q&A: Indonesia’s Prabowo Subianto ‘confident’ of election victory | Elections

Jakarta, Indonesia – On February 14, more than 204 million Indonesians will have the opportunity to vote for their new president.

Current President Joko Widodo is in his second and final term and is prohibited by the Constitution from seeking re-election.

Voters can choose between three presidential candidates: Anies Baswedan, former governor of Jakarta, Ganjar Pranowo, former governor of Central Java, and Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto.

Multiple polls indicate that Prabowo has a comfortable lead over his competitors.

Prabowo has twice tried to become president of Indonesia and lost both times to Widodo.

Since 2019 he has served as Defense Minister in Widodo’s cabinet.

Indonesian Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto and vice-presidential candidate Gibran Rakabuming Raka are the favorites in Wednesday’s election (File:Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP)

His running mate is Gibran Raka Bumingraka, 36, the president’s eldest son.

But victory is not yet a certainty. If no candidate manages to obtain at least 50 percent of the vote, a second round will be held in June.

While Prabowo is the most popular candidate, he is also polarizing. Rivals and human rights organizations have raised decades-old allegations of human rights abuses during his time in the military.

On Saturday, on the final day of the campaign, Prabowo held a rally at Jakarta’s Gelora Bung Karno stadium, where he addressed thousands of supporters.

Backstage, the 72-year-old sat down with Al Jazeera Asia correspondent Jessica Washington for an exclusive interview, sharing his thoughts on why young voters have been attracted to his campaign and how he plans to win over critics.

Al Jazeera: It’s the last day of the campaign. Are you sure you can win these elections in a single round?

Prabowo Subianto: All the figures prove it… the enthusiasm of the grassroots. All the figures show that we will go in a round.

Al Jazeera: The enthusiasm of young people has been a key part of the campaign. What is your message to your young followers?

Prabowo Subianto: Young people today are more rational, more critical, more intelligent, they perceive what is genuine and what is not.

I think they are very concerned about their future, so those who have a good program and a good strategy, those who have good commitments, are those who young people can identify with and support.

Al Jazeera: Is there anything specific about your campaign that appeals to young people? Because your opponents might say it’s because of the Tiktok dances, the cartoon posters. Is there a specific policy that attracts young people?

Prabowo Subianto: My policies are very rational, logical and with a common sense approach that is actually based on all the work of our predecessors.

Building a nation is not a matter of two or five years. It is a period of one generation or two generations.

We have to build on and build on everything our predecessors built. That’s why people from all strata, the majority, understand my message and support us. They realize that to build something, you have to build it on a solid foundation and then build on success. Brick by brick, stone by stone.

Al Jazeera: Obviously you have a lot of fans, but there are also some strong critics. If you win this election, you will also be its president. How will you navigate this?

Prabowo Subianto: I will work for the good of Indonesia. Not for a certain segment.

I demonstrated this when I lost miserably in the last election in East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) province. But when I became Defense Minister, I built one of the biggest and best polytechnics in the country. In the province where I lost.

Do you understand? I don’t believe in thinking short term, or small. I like to think big and long term.

Al Jazeera: Thinking about the bigger picture, how do you perceive Indonesia’s role on the world stage, if you become president?

Prabowo Subianto: The good fortune we inherited from our founding fathers is the philosophy of non-alignment.

Indonesia respects all countries, respects all great powers.

We want to have great relationships with everyone. We don’t want to join one block against another block. Our position is quite unique. We are friends of everyone. In any conflict or competition, we are the ones who can be accepted by all parties.

Al Jazeera: What does Gibran bring to this partnership, in terms of skills and experience?

Prabowo Subianto: More than 50 percent of our voters are under 50 years old. Young people are dynamic, intelligent and critical.

If you look, the fact that there is a vice president under 40 years old is normal in many Western countries. In Indonesia he has become something of a problem, not because he is under 40 but because he is the son of President Joko Widodo, which makes some circles feel bad. But that’s politics. You can’t please everyone all the time.

Al Jazeera: What will Indonesia be like under your presidency?

Prabowo Subianto: I hope Indonesia will be dynamic and economically better. But the most important thing is that I want to alleviate poverty. I want to get rid of hunger. I want to get rid of stunting in Indonesian children. The numbers are not so good: at least 25 percent of children are stunted in peripheral areas. But even in West Java there are children who do not eat well.

Al Jazeera: It’s one thing to say they’ll support you in the polls and appear at campaign events. It’s a different matter when it comes to showing up on February 14 and voting. Do you have any concerns about the trustworthiness of your followers?

Prabowo Subianto: From the fervor of my fans, I think they feel that our team is the real hope for them. I’m sure they will show up, they feel they need leaders who can understand their needs and want to fight for them.

I would tell them: use your power, once every five years you have the power in your hands to elect leaders who will fight for you. If you vote for me, I will defend you and fight for you.



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