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Jakarta Post

Prabowo still 'messiah' for 68.7 million Indonesians

  • Kornelius Purba

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Wed, May 22, 2019   /   09:00 am
Prabowo still 'messiah' for 68.7 million Indonesians Prabowo (center, in black cap and beige top) addresses hundreds of supporters during a mass prayer held on April 19, just two days after the election, at his residence in South Jakarta. (Courtesy of/Prabowo-Sandiaga campaign team)

The repeated threats of the Prabowo Subianto-Sandiaga Uno camp to stage massive street rallies and other expressions of defiance against the government — which they have described as “people power” — seem to have lost much of their relevance following the General Elections Commission (KPU) decision to announce the official results of the presidential and legislative elections early on Tuesday, one day ahead of the May 22 deadline.

According to the KPU, incumbent President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo won 55.5 percent of the vote (85.6 million votes) and Prabowo gained 44.5 percent (68.7 million). Therefore, although Jokowi was reelected, we should remember that nearly 69 million Indonesians supported Prabowo and the way some of them regard Prabowo is almost reminiscent of a cult personality. They perceive him as the “messiah” for Indonesia — many thought so when a man found a Rp 50,000 bill carrying a stamp that read “Prabowo the chosen knight [satria piningit], messiah” after withdrawing cash from an ATM in Tangerang, Banten last September.

Prabowo lost to Jokowi for the second time in a row. The outcome was not at all surprising, despite Prabowo claiming victory several times — initially 62 percent of the vote based on an “internal real count”, but last week discounted down to 54 percent.

Prabowo and his die-hard supporters will embarrass themselves with his decision to challenge the election result at the Constitutional Court. Legal experts, including former Constitutional Court justices, have reminded him of his very slim chance of winning. Five years ago he attempted to prove in court that “structured, systematic and massive” electoral fraud had cost him the presidency, but to no avail.

Several hours before the KPU’s announcement, the Elections Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu) rejected Prabowo’s allegations of vote rigging in favor of Jokowi because they were based merely on (noncredible) online media reports.

Like it or not, the April 17 elections were democratic, transparent and peaceful and the world has acknowledged this.

Initially Prabowo displayed statesmanship when reacting to the KPU’s announcement. He asked his supporters to maintain peace and order and to organize their protests in a nonviolent, civilized and constitutional manner.

But he quickly changed his mind, saying he was the constitutional president of Indonesia. He might not have learned from Islam Defenders Front (FPI) leader Fahrurrozi who in 2014 proclaimed himself the governor of Jakarta, the post that constitutionally was held by Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama. Shortly after, a neighborhood chief in East Jakarta told the media he was looking for Fahrurrozi as he had not paid neighborhood fees for months.

To anticipate the unexpected, given the clear-cut division resulting from the grueling presidential election, the National Police has stepped up security to the top level. Thousands of Prabowo supporters are said to be planning a huge rally outside the KPU to reject the election result and to demand disqualification of Jokowi so that Prabowo will become the country’s eighth president. As tension rises, a number of prominent figures known to have called for “people power” to defend Prabowo have been arrested.

Nonetheless, Jokowi and his running mate Ma’ruf Amin assured the nation on Tuesday they would not ignore those who voted for Prabowo. “After being sworn in October, we will be the President and Vice President of the entire Indonesian people, we will be the leaders and the guardians of 100 percent of Indonesians. We will fight to deliver social justice for the entire Indonesian people,” Jokowi said.

As he displays his never-say-die spirit, Prabowo will recall a previous humiliating moment in dealing with a sitting president. Today, 21 years ago, on May 22, 1998, his anger and bluff did not matter to then president Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie, who was on the previous day sworn-in to replace Prabowo’s father-in-law, Soeharto. Claiming to act on behalf of Soeharto and his own, famous father, the professor Sumitro Djojohadikusumo, Prabowo angrily demanded Habibie reinstate him as the commander of the Army Strategic Reserves Command (Kostrad). Habibie had dismissed Prabowo from the military post on the same day Soeharto lost his power. Prabowo was shocked to discover the might he enjoyed during Soeharto’s 32-year dictatorship meant nothing that day.

In his autobiography Decisive Moments (p. 98), Habibie writes that Prabowo first asked him to let him command Kostrad for another three months, but later he lowered his negotiation to just three days.

“Your firing me as the commander of Kostrad is an insult to my family and the family of my father-in-law, president Soeharto,” Prabowo warned Habibie. But Prabowo later begged, “Give me just three more weeks, or even three more days, in command of my men!”

“No, by the time the sun sets, you must have handed over command of all your troops to the new Kostrad commander,” Habibie firmly ended their conversation.

It looks certain that Jokowi will lead Indonesia until 2024, at the expense of Prabowo. But never underestimate Prabowo’s power and influence. He has developed his Great Indonesia Party (Gerindra) into a formidable opposition force.

Although as a leader Jokowi will embrace his haters, many will never forgive him. They will seek any opportunity to avenge Prabowo’s humiliation and they believe he cannot be wrong. Many of them will never accept their idol’s defeat. They will not hesitate to go to prison just to defend Prabowo.