October 24, 2023
JAKARTA – Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto has never tried to hide his pride over choosing Gibran Rakabumi Raka as his running mate in his third bid for the presidency. Many are still guessing about the biggest reason behind Prabowo’s enthusiasm for the eldest son of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo.
Is it just because he believes Gibran, the mayor of Surakarta, is his good luck charm?
Numbers certainly play an important part. Jokowi is still highly popular with ratings above 70 percent, exactly a year before he completes his second and final term. Prabowo seems very confident that with the President’s full backing, he will be elected as Indonesia’s eighth president next year. Eight is Prabowo’s favorite number.
But there must be something else besides numbers.
Prabowo, who just turned 72, said the country needed young people to run the country, like during the early years of an independent Indonesia. He cited Sutan Syahrir, who was 36 when he was named as the country’s prime minister in 1945, and military commander Gen. Sudirman, who led the guerilla war against the Dutch at the age of 27.
“My father was an assistant to the prime minister when he was just 28 years old, and became finance minister at 31,” Prabowo said on Saturday of his late father, Sumitro Djojohadikusumo.
Sumitro and his family fled the country in 1957 after he joined a separatist movement against Sukarno’s government and only repatriated in 1966, after Soeharto had replaced Sukarno and established the New Order.
It is likely that Prabowo and Gibran will be the third and the final candidate pair to register with the General Elections Commission (KPU) before the window closes on Wednesday. Prabowo’s Gerindra Party, along with the Golkar Party, the Democratic Party, the National Mandate Party (PAN) and several nonlegislative parties, are backing the pair.
Meanwhile, former Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan and his running mate, National Awakening Party (PKB) chairman Muhammad Iskandar, submitted their documents to the KPU on Thursday. Another pair, former Central Java governor Ganjar Pranowo and Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Mahfud MD, also registered their candidacy on the same day. All four have undergone the mandatory medical tests.
There is another side to Prabowo that could explain his choice of Gibran.
The former general is a widower of 25 years and father to his son, Didit Hediprasetyo, who has dedicated his life to his passion for design. When he is not in his home base of Paris, the 39-year-old spends his time with Prabowo and his mother Siti “Titiek” Hediati Hariyadi, a daughter of Soeharto who is contesting the 2024 legislative election under the banner of Gerindra, the country’s largest party after the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) and Golkar.
In February, just two weeks after Prabowo visited Gibran, his son also did the same at Gibran’s private residence in Surakarta. The Jakarta Post reported during their meeting that Didit provided some details of the gowns he was designing for Gibran’s mother, First Lady Iriana, and his wife, Selvi Ananda.
Finding out when Prabowo met with Jokowi and other members of his family, including Gibran and his youngest son Kaesang Pangarep, is as easy as checking YouTube or any other social media platform.
In my view, Prabowo is trying to have his son get to know the First Family better. Since the 2019 election, Didit has often appeared with his father and mother in public. But as there is no indication that Didit has an appetite for politics, Prabowo will not have a biological successor when he relinquishes the party’s chief post, unlike PDI-P chairwoman Megawati Soekarnoputri.
Prabowo also openly admires Kaesang, a novice politician who recently took the helm of the Indonesian Solidarity Party (PSI), which brands itself as a party of millennials and Generation Z.
A drum band performance welcomed Kaesang’s visit early this month to Prabowo’s private residence in Kebayoran Baru, South Jakarta.
Speaking to reporters after meeting Kaesang, Prabowo said he shared the same vision with Kaesang about the nation’s current affairs, democracy and national unity. “Differences in views and opinions are common in a democracy,” Prabowo said.
Prabowo’s cheerful expression is also evident in social media content, such as when chatted with Jokowi’s eldest grandson and the son of Gibran and Selvi, 7-year-old Jan Ethes Srinarendra.
Is it now easier to understand or view Prabowo with more empathy?
Many people, especially die-hard Jokowi supporters and the PDI-P elite, have been growing more irritated by the President’s repeated “I don’t know”, every time he is asked about his eldest son’s potential nomination as Prabowo’s running mate.
On Sunday, Jokowi still relied on this poker face tactic when journalists asked him about Gibran’s pairing with Prabowo.
“Parents just have to pray and give their blessing to their children,” Jokowi said in Surabaya.
Who can believe such a tactic?
Jokowi insists he has never intervened with Gibran’s life. “The children are all grown up. We should not interfere with their decision,” he said.
Is it believable that Jokowi knew nothing about the Constitutional Court’s scandalous decision that paved the way for his son’s candidacy?
Jokowi has prepared Gibran to reach the highest level of national politics. He must have had the foresight to realize that if Prabowo were to win the presidency, he would need an active deputy: A 72-year-old president would badly need the energy of a 36-year-old vice president.
Jokowi’s chance to play a crucial role in the PDI-P after he leaves office is dead, at least for now. But Gerindra may give him an honorary role.
By choosing Gibran as his running mate, Prabowo is hopeful that the Surakarta mayor will one day be his political heir and preserve his legacy. Will he be able to realize this mission impossible? Time will tell.