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Who is Prabowo Subianto, the likely next President of Indonesia?

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Early results show former military general Prabowo Subianto is likely to become Indonesia's next President.
Who is Prabowo Subianto, Indonesia's likely new President?

Early results from Indonesia’s general election show Prabowo Subianto is on track to become President of the third-largest democracy in the world.

Prabowo – a well-known figure in Indonesia and a former military general – has run for President twice before.

Polls closed on Wednesday afternoon after more than 200 million people cast their votes. Initial results show Prabowo has already secured more than 50% of the vote.

So, who is Prabowo Subianto, the retired commander accused of human rights abuses, who is also known for his social media dances?

Indonesia

Indonesia declared independence in 1945, after hundreds of years under Dutch rule.

It faced decades of political instability and accusations of corruption under President Suharto.

Riots in 1998 caused the deaths of more than 1,000 people and led to Suharto’s resignation after 32 years as leader.

A transition to democracy began after the riots, with measures added to reduce and diversify power, and create independent elections.

Prabowo

Prabowo Subianto Djojohadikusumo was born in 1951. His father was an economist and politician, and his grandfather was the founder of one of the largest banks in the country.

Prabowo spent much of his childhood overseas before joining Indonesia’s military in the 1970s, where he served for decades.

He married Suharto’s daughter, Siti Hediati Hariyadi, in 1983. The pair split up in 1998, shortly after the dictator’s regime collapsed.

Military

Prabowo rose through the ranks of Indonesia’s military, ultimately playing a key role in the response to pro-democracy protests in May 1998. Prabowo was allegedly involved in kidnapping, torturing, and killing activists who called for Suharto to resign.

He’s also been accused of inciting violence against Chinese-Indonesians, leading to the deaths of four students in the capital Jakarta.

Prabowo denies most of the allegations and hasn’t been formally charged, however he has admitted to kidnapping activists while he was a military chief.

Exile

Following Suharto’s resignation in 1998, Prabowo left the military and spent three years in self-imposed exile in Jordan.

He returned to Indonesia in 2001.

Australia and the U.S. banned Prabowo from entering their countries.

However, these bans have been lifted since his rising prominence in Indonesian politics.

Politics

In 2008, Prabowo co-founded Gerindra (Great Indonesia Movement) — a right-wing nationalist political party.

He became the party’s chairman in 2014 before running for President against Joko Widodo, and lost a rematch in 2019.

He served as the Defence Minister during Widodo’s second term.

2019 election

Prabowo refused to concede his election loss to President Joko Widodo in 2019, alleging widespread “fraud”.

He mounted a legal challenge in Indonesia’s Constitutional Court that later failed.

Hardline supporters of Prabowo clashed with riot police in Jakarta after it was announced he lost the Presidential election.

The clashes left six people dead and about 200 others injured. Dozens were arrested.

2024 campaign

After ten years, Joko Widodo is stepping down as leader because of Indonesia’s two-term presidential limit.

When Prabowo announced his bid for the 2024 presidency, he declared his running mate was the outgoing President’s son, Gibran Rakabuming Raka.

In an effort to win over younger voters, the 72-year-old posted dance videos and an animated version of himself on social media throughout his campaign.

What now?

Polls closed on Wednesday. Counting the hundreds of millions of votes could take over a month to complete.

Early results indicate Prabowo has secured 58% of the vote and he’s expected to secure the Presidency.

Addressing his supporters, Prabowo said: “We should not be arrogant, we should not be proud, we should not be euphoric, we still have to be humble.

“This victory must be a victory for all Indonesian people.”

Indonesia is among dozens of countries holding elections for the record 2024 election year.

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