Prabowo Subianto, the former general and current Gerindra Party chairman, seems set to challenge President Joko Widodo once again in 2019 after losing to the one-time mayor of Solo in the 2014 election. Although Prabowo’s candidacy is not yet certain, the Gerindra Party Facebook page recently posted clips for one of his speeches that may give us some insight into what sort of platform he would be running on for the rematch.
The date and place of the speech are not indicated in the video (one senior Gerindra official Detik spoke to said he wasn’t sure but said it spoke to Indonesia’s current situation). If indeed it is an indication of Prabowo’s planned campaign message for 2019, it look like the former general is going to lean hard on economic populism and nationalism as an alternative to the apocalyptic scenario he outlines here.
Prabowo begins by saying that although the symbols of Indonesia, such as the national anthem, exist for now “… in other countries they have made studies where the Republic of Indonesia has been declared no more in 2030.”
(After a bit of Googling we couldn’t find any references to any such studies but did find this article by consulting group McKinsey Indonesia’s saying that Indonesia’s fast-growing economy could become the world’s 7th largest by 2030. But Prabowo could have access to secret studies we’re not aware of…)
He goes on to say:
They predict that we will be disbanded. Our elites know that 80% of the land in the entire country will be controlled by 1% of our people and that’s okay. That almost all assets are controlled by 1% percent and that’s okay. That most of our wealth will be taken abroad by those not living in Indonesia and that’s okay.
This is what is destroying our nation, brothers and sisters! The smarter, the higher the position, the more they are cheaters! The more they are cunning! The more they are thieves! We do not feel comfortable talking about this, but there is no time for us to pretend again.
Gerindra Central Executive Board Chairman Ahmad Riza Patria said that he fully agreed with what Prabowo said in the video, arguing that if Indonesia continues to allow its natural resources to be exploited such a scenario could come about.
“What is certain is that Pak Prabowo is a nationalist, he wants to bring back Article 33 of the 1945 Constitution, so that the country’s earth, water and natural resources are controlled by the state,” Riza told Detik yesterday.
Prabowo, who has already been endorsed as Gerindra’s candidate by numerous factions within the party, is expected to formally declare his candidacy in April.
Fadli Zon, a founding member of Gerindra and the deputy speaker of the house, has already indicated that Prabowo would be running on a platform of economic nationalism and populism. He often gives the example of asking people if they feel better off economically now as opposed to before Joko Widodo.
But if that is indeed the message that Prabowo is planning on running with, there’s a big question mark on whether it’ll resonate with the masses. Indeed, when Fadli Zon appeared on a Kompas TV talk show last year and asked whether their lives had become easier during Jokowi’s time in office, most enthusiastically said yes.
To be fair, many of them might have simply been trolling Fadli (who could resist?). But Prabowo beating Jokowi on economic populism will certainly be a challenge. The country’s GDP has been growing steadily (if not as fast as some hoped) and despite high unemployment rates Jokowi’s overall approval rating remains quite high.
Prabowo’s speech also continuously refers to the Indonesian elite 1% not caring about selling off the country. While there’s certainly some animosity to tap into regarding the country’s huge wealth-gap, but he’ll have a tough time painting Jokowi, the former furniture salesman with much man-of-the-people cred, as one of those elites (some would argue that Prabowo and many of his political partners are more deserving of that label).
That’s the reason that many political analysts expect Prabowo’s campaign to rely heavily on smear tactics in an attempt to characterize Joko Widodo as a bad Muslim (or perpetuate hoaxes that he is secretly a Communist, or Christian, or Chinese) in the hopes that he can use the same protest playbook used to successfully unseat former Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama in last year’s gubernatorial race. But Jokowi seems to have done much to burnish his image as a devout Muslim and crack down on hoaxes lately to insulate himself from such attacks, so that would also seem to be a risky play.
A lot can happen before the 2019 elections, of course, but it looks like the former furniture maker has outmaneuvered the former general for now – in head-to-head surveys the Gerindra chairman consistently lags far behind the incumbent. Prabowo may want to save his apocalyptic vision of Indonesia in 2030 for the next presidential election in 2024.