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    Indonesia’s New President: Prabowo Scores a Resounding Victory and a Smooth Transition Is Expected

    Published On: 15 February 2024

    Written by: Joanna Octavia, Head of Programming at Asia House

    Key takeaways

    • Indonesia’s Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto Djojohadikusumo secured a resounding victory in the 2024 Indonesian presidential election, based on a quick count which showed him capturing close to 60 per cent of the votes.
    • The ‘Jokowi Effect’ demonstrated President Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo’s political capital and influence. His implicit support paved the way for Prabowo to win the presidency with Gibran Rakabuming Raka, the outgoing president’s son, as his running mate.
    • Prabowo ran on a platform of continuity, having promised to continue President Jokowi’s key initiatives including the downstreaming of minerals and development of the new capital city Nusantara.
    • Prominent figures in the Prabowo-Gibran camp, including current sitting ministers Airlangga Hartarto, Zulkifli Hasan and Erick Thohir, are expected to play key roles in the new administration.
    • A single-round election implies a smoother political transition, with consolidation and power-sharing expected to take form in the months leading up to October’s inauguration.
    • International investors and businesses are likely to welcome the policy continuity and stability the Prabowo win is likely to bring.
    • One challenge of the new government will be to continue to deliver growth against a background of the slowing Chinese economy and the unpredictable global outlook.

    Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto Djojohadikusumo has claimed victory in Indonesia’s Presidential election, striking a conciliatory tone in a speech to supporters in Jakarta.

    The Prabowo-Gibran camp looks set to secure a clear victory, meaning a second-round vote will not be necessary. Based on a “quick count” – state-approved polling samples – Prabowo captured around 58 per cent of the vote. Rivals Anies-Muhaimin trailed with around 25 per cent and Ganjar-Mahfud with 16 per cent. While quick count results are unofficial, they have proven to be relatively accurate in the past

    Prabowo was once a fierce rival to incumbent President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, having lost to him twice in the 2014 and 2019 elections. Known by his first name, Prabowo, a former special forces soldier, was once married to the daughter of former Indonesian President Suharto. Currently a key ally of Jokowi, Prabowo raised eyebrows by selecting President Jokowi’s 36-year-old son, Gibran Rakabuming Raka, as his running mate. Despite some outcry over allegations of pressuring the Constitutional Court to make an exception to the age requirement for Gibran’s candidacy, the campaign garnered significant support from political parties, celebrities, and business tycoons

    Prominent figures in the Prabowo-Gibran campaign, including former chairman of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KADIN) Rosan Roeslani, and former Trade Minister Muhammad Lutfi, are poised to be influential in Indonesia’s foreign and economic affairs. Current sitting ministers and key strongmen in the Prabowo-Gibran coalition, such as Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Airlangga Hartarto, Trade Minister Zulkifli Hasan and SOE Minister Erick Thohir, are expected to continue playing significant roles in the future administration.

    A single-round election implies a smoother political transition, potentially minimising disruptions in business operations in the country. In the coming months, the international business community can anticipate consolidation not only within the Prabowo camp but also in the pragmatic collaboration between the Prabowo group and its political rivals. Modern Indonesian politics is characterised by power-sharing among elites, exemplified when President Jokowi invited Prabowo to join his cabinet as defence minister at the beginning of his second term in 2019. However, while expanding the big-tent coalition with additional political parties will aid in reducing legislative opposition to Prabowo’s presidency, it may also pose future challenges related to internal conflicts, policy compromises, and potential voter discontent.

    During the transition period between now and October’s inauguration, outgoing President Jokowi is also expected to play a significant role in transitioning his portfolio and personal relationships to the incoming president. Before the election, President Jokowi allegedly mentioned his intention to introduce the new Indonesian president-elect to global players, such as Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and UAE President Mohamed bin Zayed. Given President Jokowi’s close relationship with various heads of state, it is not unlikely that he will continue playing a role in assisting the next president to ensure Indonesia’s continued relevance on the international stage.

    Businesses should watch out for simmering dissatisfactions and potential protests over President Jokowi’s alleged interference, Prabowo’s checkered human rights record, and inaccurate voting data. The Dirty Vote documentary, which accuses the president of using state officials and funds to aid Prabowo’s campaign, went viral after it was released three days before the election, much to the chagrin of the Prabowo-Gibran camp. Reports have also emerged of disparities in voting data by the Indonesian Election Commission.

    Like most of its ASEAN neighbours, Indonesia will also have to navigate a challenging international environment which includes the economic slowdown in China an uncertain global outlook. The Asia House Annual Outlook forecast Indonesia’s growth for 2024 would be in the order of 5 per cent.

    The campaign

    President Jokowi unsurprisingly proved to be an effective kingmaker in the 2024 presidential elections, with voters from various socioeconomic and professional backgrounds citing the president’s implicit support for Prabowo’s candidacy as their reason for voting for the former military general. The clash between President Jokowi and PDIP Chairwoman Megawati, the party chair’s thinly veiled attacks on the President’s loyalty to her leadership, and the subsequent fallout between the two figures all made the rounds on social media, further shifting support from Ganjar and PDIP to Prabowo’s campaign.

    Furthermore, Prabowo’s new approachable image, based on “gemoy” or “cute” in Bahasa Indonesian, coupled with his firm style of speech and leadership honed through his time in the military, have also endeared him to a significant populace of voters, many of whom are first-time voters under the age of 30. Others have also commented that Prabowo’s presidency and nationalistic credentials would be good for local business.

    Prabowo ran on a platform of continuity, having positioned himself as the successor to the current president. He has pledged to continue key initiatives of President Jokowi such as the downstreaming of minerals and the development of the new capital city Nusantara. Internationally, Prabowo is expected to maintain President Jokowi’s policy of economic diplomacy, seeking support from China to fund Indonesia’s infrastructure projects, while also enhancing relations in other economic corridors, such as with countries in the Gulf.

    Despite these challenges, Prabowo’s victory spoke volumes of Indonesian voters’ desire for continuity. With a firm foothold in Jakarta’s tight-knit circle of political elites, and his son poised to become the future Vice President of Indonesia, President Jokowi may have successfully leveraged his popularity and ensured that his legacy extends beyond the past decade.

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