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Indonesia's president-elect Prabowo urges unity after resounding victory

Indonesia's president-elect Prabowo urges unity after resounding victory
Indonesia's front-runner presidential candidate and Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto waves as he delivers his speech after the country's election commission announced last month's presidential election result, in Jakarta, Indonesia, March 20, 2024.
PHOTO: Reuters

JAKARTA — Indonesia's Prabowo Subianto pledged on Wednesday (March 20) to be a president for all Indonesians after official results showed him sweeping last month's election, even as rivals said they would mount legal challenges over the electoral process.

The former special forces commander and current defence minister won the Feb 14 contest with nearly 60 per cent of votes, a resounding victory over rivals Anies Baswedan and Ganjar Pranowo, who received about 25 per cent and 16 per cent, respectively, according to the election body's official tally. It largely confirmed unofficial results released by independent pollsters last month.

Prabowo, 72, thanked voters and volunteers gathered at his south Jakarta residence, saying the election went smoothly.

"We invite all Indonesians to look ahead in unity because our challenges are still huge," he said, vowing to eradicate poverty and injustice.

He thanked the popular outgoing President Joko Widodo, known as Jokowi, whose tacit backing helped Prabowo win at his third attempt.

He billed himself to voters and investors alike as the "continuity candidate". On Wednesday he repeated a pledge to use as a guide Jokowi's economic policies, which have modernised infrastructure, cut red tape, and delivered growth and prosperity in the trillion-dollar, G20 economy.

"We will use the strong foundation he has built, especially in the economic sector, to work faster, harder, to bring results as quickly as possible to the Indonesian people," he said.

The recently decorated honorary four-star general rose to the top job in the world's third-largest democracy despite past allegations of human rights abuses during his time in the military, which he has denied. His popularity soared with younger voters, especially on social media like TikTok, and especially after he picked Jokowi's son as his running mate.

Prabowo is expected to take over from Jokowi in October.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, congratulated Prabowo on his victory while also applauding the Indonesian people "for their robust turnout and commitment to democracy and the rule of law."

Legal challenges

Prabowo's alliance with Jokowi, to whom he lost in 2014 and 2019, prompted fears of a resurgence of patronage politics in a country that just 25 years ago transitioned from authoritarian rule to democracy.

Jokowi himself has been accused of election interference, which he and his allies deny.

Jokowi's 36-year-old son and Prabowo's running mate, Gibran Rakabuming Raka is set to become the country's youngest ever vice president, owing to a last-minute change of eligibility rules by a court headed by the president's brother-in-law.

Rival camps led by Ganjar and Anies have three days to lodge complaints with the Constitutional Court, which typically handles election disputes.

Anies said after the final results that there had been election irregularities and that his legal team would take it to court.

"A leadership born out of a sullied process, with deviations, fraud, will produce a regime with unjust policies," he said. He did not provide details of the alleged irregularities.

Ganjar's running mate Mahfud MD also said on Wednesday his camp was ready to go to court over the alleged irregularities.

Prabowo's campaign team said on Wednesday it was preparing evidence and rebuttals for the legal challenges.

The election commission also announced on Wednesday that Indonesia's biggest party PDI-P received the most votes in the legislative elections, which were held on the same day, followed by the Golkar Party and Prabowo's Gerindra Party.

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