Q&A: Indonesia’s Prabowo Subianto ‘confident’ of election victory

Frontrunner tells Al Jazeera in exclusive interview that he will work for ‘the good of Indonesia’.

Indonesia's Defence Minister and presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto has told Al Jazeera that he is confident of victory [File: Juni Kriswanto/AFP]

Jakarta, Indonesia – On February 14, more than 204 million Indonesians will have the chance to vote for their new president.

Incumbent Joko Widodo is in his second and final term, and is constitutionally barred from seeking re-election.

Voters have a choice between three presidential candidates – Anies Baswedan, the former Governor of Jakarta, Ganjar Pranowo, the former Governor of Central Java, and Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto.

Multiple polls indicate Prabowo has a comfortable lead over his competitors.

Prabowo has tried twice to become Indonesia’s president – and lost both times to Widodo.

Since 2019, he has served as defence minister in Widodo’s cabinet.

His running mate is 36-year-old Gibran Raka Bumingraka, the president’s eldest son.

Indonesia’s Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto and vice presidential candidate Gibran Rakabuming Raka are the favourites in Wednesday’s elections [File:Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP)

But victory is still not a certainty. If no candidate can secure at least 50 percent of the vote, a second round of voting will be held in June.

While Prabowo is the most popular candidate, he is also polarising. Decades-old allegations of human rights abuses during his time in the military have been raised by rivals and rights organisations.

On the final day of campaigning on Saturday, Prabowo held a rally in the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium in Jakarta, where he addressed thousands of supporters.

Backstage, the 72-year-old met with Al Jazeera Asia Correspondent Jessica Washington for an exclusive interview, sharing his thoughts on why young voters have been drawn to his campaign and how he plans to win over critics.

Al Jazeera: It’s the last day of campaigning. Are you feeling confident that you can win this election in one round?

Prabowo Subianto: All the figures show that way…the grassroots enthusiasm. All the figures show that we will go in one round.

Al Jazeera: The enthusiasm of young people has been a key part of the campaign. What is your message to your young supporters?

Prabowo Subianto: The young today, they are more rational, they are more critical, they are smarter, they sense what is genuine and what is not genuine.

I think they are very concerned about their future, so those that have a good program and good strategy, those that have good commitments, they are the ones that the young can identify with they can support.

Al Jazeera: Is there something specific about your campaign that appeals to young people? Because your opponents might say it’s because of the Tiktok dances, the cartoon posters. Is there a specific policy that appeals to young people?

Prabowo Subianto: My policies are very rational, logical, with a common-sense approach that is actually building on all the work of our predecessors.

Nation-building is not a two year thing, a five-year thing. It’s a period of one generation or two generations.

We have to make use and build on everything that has been built by our predecessors. That’s why people of all strata the majority of them get my message and support us. They realise to build something, you must do it based on strong foundation and then build upon success. Brick by brick, stone by stone.

Al Jazeera: You obviously have very many supporters but there are also some strong critics. If you win this election, you will be their president too. How will you navigate this?

Prabowo Subianto: I will work for the good of Indonesia. Not for a certain segment.

I proved this, when the last election, I lost badly in East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) province. But when I became Minister of Defence, I built one of the biggest and best polytechnics there. In the province where I lost.

Do you understand? I don’t believe in thinking short-term, thinking small. I like to think big and long-term.

Al Jazeera: Thinking big picture, how do you perceive Indonesia’s role on the global stage, if you do become president?

Prabowo Subianto: The good luck we inherited from our founding fathers is the philosophy of non-alignment.

Indonesia respects all countries, respects all great powers.

We want to have great relationships with everybody. We don’t want to be joining one bloc against another bloc. Our position is quite unique. We are friends with everybody. In any conflict or competition, we are the ones who can be accepted by all sides.

Al Jazeera: What does Gibran bring to this partnership, in terms of skills and experience?

Prabowo Subianto: More than 50 percent of our voters are below the age of 50. The young, are dynamic, savvy, and they are critical.

If you notice, the fact there is a vice-president under the age of 40, that’s is normal in many countries in the west. In Indonesia it has become some sort of issue, not because he is under 40 but because he is the son of President Joko Widodo, that makes some circles feel bad. But that’s politics. You cannot please everyone all the time.

Al Jazeera: What will Indonesia look like under your presidency?

Prabowo Subianto: I hope Indonesia will be dynamic, economically better-off. But most importantly, I want to alleviate poverty. I want to get rid of hunger. I want to get rid of stunting for Indonesian children. The figures are not so good, at least 25 percent of children are stunted, in the outlying areas. But even in West Java, there are children who do not eat well.

Al Jazeera: It’s one thing to say they will support you in polls, and to show up at campaign events. It’s a different matter when it comes to actually showing up on February 14 and voting. Do you have any concern about the reliability of your supporters?

Prabowo Subianto: From the fervour of my supporters, I think they feel that our team the real hope for them. I am confident they will turn up, they feel they need leaders who can understand their needs, who want to fight for them.

I would tell them, use your power, once every five years you have the power in your hands to choose leaders who will fight for you. If you vote for me, I will defend you and fight for you.

Source: Al Jazeera