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A general dismissed from the army, favorite in Indonesia’s elections involving 204 million voters

A general dismissed from the army, favorite in Indonesia's elections involving 204 million voters

Indonesia celebrates the largest elections in the Muslim world on Valentine’s Day, in which 204 million voters are eligible to vote They will decide who will succeed current President Joko Widodo at the helm of Southeast Asia’s largest economy. It is an amazing feat to transport voices across the wide world by boat, plane and horse Archipelago with more than 278 million inhabitants. The Defense Minister, Prabowo Subianto, He was discharged from military service amid speculation about human rights abuses and was once banned from the United States because of his alleged shady past. Now he is in prime position to become the country’s next leader. However, both Ganjar Pranowo, former Governor of Central Java, as Anies Baswedanformer Jakarta governor, is hoping to thwart his potential first-round victory and send the election to a second round in June.

This is the sixth general election held in Indonesia since then the 1999 popular uprising against then-President Suharto, which marked the nation’s transition to democracy. The current election campaign has been marked by numerous controversies, particularly related to concerns about democratic backsliding in the country, which has raised doubts about the influence of Widodo himself on state institutions in favor of his favorite candidate, candidate Prabowo. As voters go to the polls, these concerns and accusations of favoritism are likely to cast a shadow over the transparency and fairness of elections. Without a doubt, this situation adds an additional element of tension to these historic elections.

Outgoing President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has taken over the leadership a decade of stable growth, investment inflow, infrastructure development and social stability. He became the country’s seventh president and maintained remarkable public popularity throughout his career.

During these ten years, Indonesia has played an increasingly important role in regional geopolitics, establishing itself as a heavyweight in both economics and security. He has also taken on important tasks, such as the presidency of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the G20. Aside from that. has emerged as a major player in the region due to its strategic location and control over key trade and sea routes such as the Strait of Malacca and the southern part of the South China Sea. In addition, it has positioned itself as the “big brother” of ASEAN, a highly relevant regional economic and political bloc that has played a fundamental role in promoting the balance of power and relations between the United States and China in the region.

Ambitious and spirited, with a dark pastFormer army general Prabowo Subianto spent a lifetime fighting for the biggest prize in Indonesian politics. Now that he’s well ahead in recent polls, it seems like the presidency is finally within reach. His candidacy has attracted widespread attention because Widodo’s son is on his list and is running as a candidate for vice presidency, an alliance that has received the president’s tacit support and from which he appears to have benefited.

The favorite is in his third presidential campaign and during this time he has managed to build a friendly relationship with his former rival Widodo. Strategically, it has taken over the image “Jokowi’s man” tried to capitalize on his popularity and promised to continue his policies, which was well received by the public.

In addition, he implemented an image change strategy, abandoning the tough man to adopt a more pleasant and friendly appearance. He has even appeared on social media as an older dancer, trying to generate empathy and provide a striking contrast to the perception some Indonesians have of him as a former army general facing harsh accusations of human rights abuses.

An ambitious soldier who served primarily in the special forces (Kopassus), his marriage to a daughter of the authoritarian former President Soeharto accelerated his career. He rose to the rank of lieutenant general and eventually to the key position of commander of the powerful Army Strategic Reserve (Kostrad) in the capital Jakarta. When the Soeharto regime faltered in the wake of the 1997 financial crisis, he undertook covert operations to protect the regime from it New Order, repressive and supported by the army, against its critics.

Under his leadership, the Pink Brigade special unit was accused of kidnapping and torturing more than 20 student protesters, 13 of whom are still missing and presumed dead. Prabowo himself has admitted to the kidnappings but denies being involved in any killings. Although several of his men were tried and convicted, he was never prosecuted. The allegations against him led to him being denied a visa to enter the United States for years. He also denies a number of previous allegations related to atrocities committed by special forces under his command in East Timor and Papua, including alleged torture and killings.

Contrary to the pluralistic and progressive values ​​of the last decade, he has not hidden his military and public policy credentials in this electoral process. In addition, he maintained at times uneasy relations with the stricter Islamic sections of Indonesian society.

In a relatively new democracy where the violence and repression of the Suharto military era are still fresh in memory, Prabowo’s close ties to the old regime are seen as a harbinger of bad things to come.

All these political alliances and strategic changes have provoked criticism and skepticism in some sectors, questioning the authenticity of their new approach and whether it actually reflects a change in their political beliefs. Ultimately, it will be the voters who will decide whether his strategy works and whether he succeeds in convincing people of his ability to lead the country.

Another candidate from the ruling party, Ganjar Pranowo, who has allied himself with former security minister Mahfud MD, is largely relying on continuity.

The only opposition candidate is former Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan, who is running alongside Muhaimin Iskandar, who is closely linked to Indonesia’s largest Islamic organization. Nahdlatul Ulama with about 40 million members. The former university president was praised for his work to improve Jakarta’s infrastructure during his term as governor, but the confrontation with the identity politics that put him in the position has also angered some voters.

According to opinion polls conducted last week, Prabowo was at just over 50% electoral support, with Anies Baswedan in second place with around 24% voting intention, followed by Ganjar Pranowo, who had around 20% support.

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