The election which saw Indonesia’s social media-savvy and heavy metal-loving president Joko Widodo re-elected also saw bitter accusations of fraud from his extended-time rival for the job. Just months later, that rival has joined government and the pair are posing for selfies. What does this imply?
When Joko Widodo (also identified as Jokowi) won Indonesia’s presidential election earlier this year, supporters of his rival, former army basic Prabowo Subianto, took to the streets and the ensuing violence left quite a few dead.
5 bitter months given that the vote
The election campaign had been angry, peppered with accusations of fraud, and it was only in the summer time, in June, that Indonesia’s constitutional court ultimately ended the political uncertainty to uphold Mr Widodo’s win.
But just months just after that, student protests hit the streets of Indonesia, prompted by a controversial and draconian criminal code getting thought of by parliament. They morphed into a thing larger, an expression of anger and despair with the government. Protesters also rejected the passing of a new anti-corruption law which they believed undermined the country’s beloved anti-corruption agency.
These protests also left quite a few dead and, though the vote on the code was postponed, the bitterness is nonetheless evident.
Everyone watched to see how Mr Widodo would respond and what that may well inform us about the state of democracy in Indonesia for the subsequent couple of years.
In some strategies, the answer came this week with the appointment of Mr Subianto as defence minister. Pretty apart from getting his rival in Indonesia’s two most current presidential elections, he is a controversial figure with a tainted record on human rights.
Jokowi, as the president is identified, was observed as a self-created “man of the people today” when he initially came to energy in 2014 – mild-mannered, jocular and with a effectively-documented adore of heavy metal music and taking selfies.
But the years have shown him prepared to make harsh political compromises and, in spite of critical challenges to Indonesia’s stated values of religious tolerance and social cohesion in current years, his priorities stay infrastructure, financial reform and political stability. This appointment can be observed as prioritising such objectives as he eyes a tangible legacy at the finish of his second and final term.
“You do not see a lot of genuine reform-minded figures in the cabinet, the sort of figures that would genuinely give a sign to any liberals in Indonesia that the government is paying consideration to challenges of democracy and human rights,” says researcher Alexander Raymond Arifianto of the S. Rajaratnam College of International Research in Singapore.
“The government is just going to pave the way for status quo when they are advertising all these greater priority projects in economy and infrastructure improvement.”
Who is the rival-turned-ally?
Prabowo Subianto, 68, was born into a household steeped in Indonesian political privilege, the son of Sumitro Djojohadikusumo, an financial whiz who held ministerial posts from the 1950s to the 1970s.
His father went into exile for a decade from 1957 mainly because of his alleged involvement with a separatist group in the area of Sumatra. Mr Subianto followed as his household fled to a quantity of European cities, such as Zurich and London.
Mr Subianto at some point married the second daughter of the late authoritarian president Suharto – a move some in the military have argued helped his swift rise.
But by that time, allegations have been currently swirling of his involvement in bloody military operations in East Timor.
He was at some point dismissed from the army for his part in the abduction and murder of student activists in 1998. His human rights record did not go unnoticed by the West, with the United States denying him visa in mid-2000s and 2014. Australia also after place him on a blacklist.
But Mr Subianto nonetheless created an extraordinary political comeback – though his 4 attempts to be leader ended in failure.
And Mr Widodo’s choice to add him to his cabinet, just months just after his most recent defeat, has dismayed several of the president’s supporters.
“[Jokowi’s] rival in the presidential election, who lost mainly because the people today rejected intolerance, anti-democratic [values], and human rights violations, is alternatively placed on an honourable position in the cabinet. We recognize that there is a deep disappointment amongst Jokowi volunteers,” says Handoko, basic secretary of Projo, a Jokowi supporters group.
So why did he do it?
“Prabowo is an intelligent person who speaks numerous languages and will definitely be valuable when it comes to defence diplomacy,” says Aaron Connelly, analysis fellow on Southeast Asian politics at the International Institute for Strategic Research in Singapore.
“But the largest danger is that tension amongst Jokowi and Prabowo will not subside, but only get higher as the connection is not constructed on mutual trust and respect.”
However the hope is that he will bring political stability to the president’s final term just after 5 years of relentless attacks from his rivals, says Mr Arifianto.
Mr Widodo has created it clear that his priority is going to be infrastructure and financial reform, signalling his aim to be the country’s subsequent “Father of Improvement”, a title after held by Suharto, Indonesia’s final dictator and his new colleague’s father-in-law. So such stability will be prized.
He also picked the co-founder of homegrown ride-hailing firm Gojek to head the education ministry and a media tycoon for a state-owned enterprises post.
But this is cold comfort for these worried about Indonesia’s path when it comes to human rights and social inequality.
“Prabowo’s appointment sends a worrying signal that our leaders have forgotten the darkest days and the worst violations committed in the Suharto era. When Prabowo was at the helm of our unique forces, activists disappeared and there have been quite a few allegations of torture and other ill-remedy,” stated Usman Hamid, Amnesty International Indonesia’s executive director.
Mr Subianto has regularly stated that he only followed orders from his chiefs and that he was scapegoated by the military, such as by former army basic-turned-politician Wiranto, who also occurred to be Mr Widodo’s initially-term safety affairs minister
Mr Widodo’s technique seems to favour compromise more than confrontation – and that has resulted in a broad cabinet that includes quite a few best generals whose possible bickering may well develop an massive distraction to the president, Mr Connelly stated.
But the selection of Subianto could pave the way for the politicisation of the armed forces and police, a function of Suharto’s 32-year rule. As an instance of this, there are regional leader posts at the moment held by active police officers, according to Titi Anggraini, director of Jakarta-primarily based Association for Election and Democracy.
Military encroachment into civil spaces was amongst the capabilities rejected by the student movement of 1998 – the student-led demonstrations that led to the fall of Suharto.
Mr Subianto did nothing at all to quell the violent protest to reject the elections outcome that erupted in his name.
The worry remains that his method to resolve any tensions that may well arise with the president could be just as unorthodox – in spite of the smiles for selfies.