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

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

The outgoing president, Joko Widodo, is in his second and final term and the Constitution prohibits him from seeking re-election.

Voters have the choice between three presidential candidates: Anies Baswedan, former governor of Jakarta, Ganjar Pranowo, former governor of Central Java, and Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto.

Several polls indicate that Prabowo has a comfortable lead over his competitors.

Prabowo twice tried to become president of Indonesia – and lost both times to Widodo.

Since 2019, he has been Minister of Defense in the Widodo cabinet.

Indonesian Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto and vice-presidential candidate Gibran Rakabuming Raka are the frontrunners in Wednesday's election. [File:Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP]

His running mate is Gibran Raka Bumingraka, 36, the president's eldest son.

But victory is still not a certainty. If no candidate manages to obtain at least 50 percent of the vote, a second round of voting will take place in June.

If Prabowo is the most popular candidate, he is also polarizing. Decades-old allegations of human rights abuses during his military service have been raised by rivals and rights organizations.

On Saturday, the last day of campaigning, Prabowo held a rally at Jakarta's Gelora Bung Karno Stadium, where he addressed thousands of supporters.

Behind the scenes, the 72-year-old sat down with Al Jazeera Asia correspondent Jessica Washington for an exclusive interview, sharing his thoughts on why young voters were attracted to his campaign and how he intends to convince the critics.

Al Jazeera: It's the last day of campaigning. Are you confident you can win this election in a single round?

Prabowo Subianto: All the figures show it… the enthusiasm of the base. All the numbers show that we will go in one round.

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

Prabowo Subianto: Young people today are more rational, more critical, more intelligent, they feel what is authentic and what is not.

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

Al Jazeera: Is there anything specific about your campaign that appeals to young people? Because your opponents may say it's because of Tiktok dances, 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 actually builds on all the work of our predecessors.

Nation building is not a matter of two years, but of five years. This is a period of one or two generations.

We must use and develop everything that was built by our predecessors. This is why people from all walks of life, the majority of them, understand my message and support us. They realize that to build something, you have to do it on solid foundations, then build on success. Brick by brick, stone by stone.

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

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

I proved it in the last elections, I lost heavily in East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) province. But when I became Minister of Defense, 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 about the bigger picture, how do you view Indonesia's role on the world stage if you become president?

Prabowo Subianto: The good fortune 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 everyone. We don't want to join one bloc against another bloc. Our position is completely unique. We are friends with everyone. In any conflict or competition, we are the ones who can be accepted by all parties.

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 under 50 years old. Young people are dynamic, wise and critical.

If you notice, the fact that there is a vice president under 40 years old, this is normal in many Western countries. In Indonesia, it has become a kind of problem, not because he is under 40, but because he is the son of President Joko Widodo, which makes some circles feel bad. But it's politics. You can't please everyone all the time.

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

Prabowo Subianto: I hope Indonesia will be dynamic and economically more prosperous. But above all, I want to reduce poverty. I want to get rid of hunger. I want to get rid of stunting among Indonesian children. The numbers are not so good: at least 25 percent of children suffer from stunted growth in peripheral areas. But even in West Java, there are children who do not eat well.

Al Jazeera: It's one thing to say they'll support you in the polls and to show up at campaign events. It's another matter when it comes to showing up on February 14 and voting. Do you have concerns about the reliability of your supporters?

Prabowo Subianto: From the fervor of my supporters, I think they feel that our team is a real hope for them. I have no doubt they will come, they feel they need leaders who understand their needs and want to fight for them.

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

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