Motive of a Former Opposition Leader’s Turn to Coalition Fuels Controversy

SEA Daily — Among those who are running for Indonesia’s 2024 presidential election, there is one candidate whose wealth stands out significantly compared to the rest: Prabowo Subianto, with a reported wealth of 2.05 trillion IDR or 130 million USD. This figure is remarkably ostentatious considering that the former general has been involved in three of the most expensive electoral contest: twice as a presidential candidate in 2014 and 2019; once as a vice presidential candidate in 2009.

Prabowo during one of the engagement events for 2019 presidential election (Image source: Media Center Prabowo-Sandi)

To Prabowo’s defense, he is not a common general who started from zero. He has strong networks, both from his own family, the Djojohadikusumos, and his former in-laws. His father was a minister and respected economist, and Prabowo was formerly married to the daughter of Indonesia’s second president, Soeharto, who ruled the country for 32 years.

After being sacked from the military in 1998, he began his business ventures with the help of his brother, who had experience in the oil and gas industry. He also leveraged his connections with foreign generals abroad, such as Prince Abdullah II of Jordan, with whom he attended military school together at Fort Benning, the United States. The then-crown prince, now the reigning king, assisted Prabowo in establishing his business by introducing him to his networks. Today, energy-based businesses dominate Prabowo’s portfolio, accumulating trillions of rupiah in wealth.

Unfortunately, Prabowo’s ambitious political career has hindered his business success, especially when he was out of power. During a recent campaign event with prominent newscaster, Najwa Shihab, he stated that during his 20 years as a political opposition figure, his business became stagnant and he struggled to secure financing from banks due to his opposing political stance.

This fact resurfaced during last night’s presidential debate when the other candidate, Anies Baswedan, challenged Prabowo over his decision to join the coalition of the incumbent president, Joko Widodo, as the defense minister in 2019, instead of remaining on the opposite side of the administration.

Prabowo (left) and Anies (right) during the first presidential debate (Image source: Tribunnews)

Earlier this month, a civil society group raised a concern about budget transparency in the Ministry of Defense. They assessed that the increase in Ministry’s budget allocation ahead of the 2024 elections, from 20.75 billion USD to 25 billion USD, was ‘not based on clear needs’ so they were worried that it would ‘be misused for electoral purposes’. Moreover, Prabowo is one of the presidential candidates who is paired with President Joko Widodo’s son, Gibran Rakabuming.

During Prabowo’s tenure, the Ministry of Defense recorded mega purchases for defense equipments, such as Mirage 2000-5 and Rafale fighter jets, and the F-15 Super Eagle. The transactions were criticized as overpriced; for example the Mirage 2000-5 that costs 792 million USD, even though the 12 units of used jets purchased from Qatari Air Force are already more than 30 years old.

Prabowo defended his actions by arguing that such actions were necessary due to Indonesia’s lagging behind in terms of defense equipment availability. ()

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