Markus Junianto Sihaloho
Ret. Gen. Prabowo Subianto is seeking the support of his former in-laws, the still-influential family of the late President Suharto, in his unlikely bid to become the next president.
Summoning the spirit of the authoritarian ruler who held power here for 32 years, Prabowo, who rarely gives interviews or speaks on the record, called current politicians naive and said that Suharto’s strong-man style suited the country.
Prabowo made the remarks late on Wednesday after attending the launching of “A Testimony of Indonesian History: From Pak Harto to Indonesia,” a book written by Probosutedjo, Suharto’s stepbrother.
Pak Harto was the nickname of the former president, who died last year.
The controversial retired officer said that he was approaching the so-called Cendana clan — informally named after the street where Suharto’s private residence is located in Menteng — to seek their support, and that several members of the former ruling family of Indonesia had vowed to back his presidential bid.
“I cannot say what is really going on inside the mind of the Cendana family,” Prabowo admitted. “I cannot claim that I already have their votes because they have not officially announced their aspirations.”
At the same event, Probosutedjo, a powerful businessman during the Suharto era who was later jailed on corruption charges, claimed that the Suharto family saw Prabowo as the man to carry on the late president’s legacy.
“With Prabowo, I will have the opportunity to say what Pak Harto’s real wishes were for the development of Indonesia,” Probosutedjo said.
Divorced from Suharto’s second eldest daughter, Siti “Titiek” Hediyanti, Prabowo is running for president on a ticket from the fledgling Great Indonesia Movement Party, or Gerindra.
Although the Suharto family and its cronies were forced to lay low following the resignation of the patriarch during the political turmoil of 1998, they still have considerable influence. Before his death, Suharto lived as a recluse at his Cendana residence, but received a steady stream of visitors, including former and current government officials.
Despite several attempts, no charges against him for corruption were ever proven and he was never forced to appear in court.
In his remarks at the book launch, Prabowo said he favored Suharto’s model of iron-fisted development.
He said politicians leading the country after Suharto’s fall have been “too naive” in trying to apply Western political theories to local governance. He argued that despite allegations of human rights violations during Suharto’s rule, the people benefitted.
Prabowo Still Aiming for Presidency
Photo: Ret. Gen. Prabowo Subianto. (JG)