Arientha Primanita, Markus Junianto Sihaloho & Lenny Tristia Tambun
Retired army general Prabowo Subianto on Friday said he would not back down in his bid for the presidency, despite a fracturing of relations with his party’s likely coalition partner and his influence in the military appearing to wane.
Prabowo’s Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) was initially planning to declare him its presidential candidate this month but decided to postpone the announcement.
Speaking at the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) 67th anniversary at Halim Perdanakusuma Airport in East Jakarta on Friday, the retired general said the declaration was merely ceremonial.
The former commander of the TNI’s special forces unit Kopassus said the large number of candidates expected to run for the presidency in 2014 was healthy because it would give the public a variety of options.
“Democracy is good, it gives the people a range of choices,” he said.
Speculation has recently arisen that the coalition between Gerindra and the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) in place for last month’s Jakarta gubernatorial election was already at risk of collapsing. But PDI-P deputy chairwoman Puan Maharani on Friday said the coalition was never intended to be permanent.
Puan said the coalition was intended only for the capital’s provincial election — which their endorsed candidate Joko Widido went on to win — and that no decision had been made on whether it would continue through to the 2014 presidential election.
“In politics, there are no permanent coalitions. Let us see whether in the 2014 presidential elections we will still be together or with others,” Puan said at the national legislative building in Jakarta.
A recent survey reportedly showed that Gerindra received the biggest boost from the Jakarta election coalition. Puan played down the survey’s significance and focused on the public benefit of the Jakarta result.
“This win is actually for the people of Jakarta. We only hope that our cadre will be able to bring changes to benefit the residents of Jakarta,” she said.
She declined to comment on speculation that Prabowo was using the Jakarta election as a stepping stone for the 2014 presidential ballot.
“What is certain for us is that the victory of Jokowi and Basuki is the victory of the people,” she said, referring to PDI-P’s Joko and his Gerindra-backed deputy, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama.
For 2014, Puan said the PDI-P was keen for a member from its own ranks to stand for the presidency. She said the decision would be made by a party congress and party chairwoman Megawati Sukarnoputri (who is Puan’s mother).
On Tuesday, several serving and former military generals who graduated in 1970 gathered for a book launch, but Prabowo was not invited.
“There’s no problem about not being invited. It’s just normal. It’s the [event of the] 1970 generation,” he told reporters.
Prabowo graduated in 1974. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was the keynote speaker at the event, despite not being a 1970 graduate.
“Pak S.B.Y. attended as president,” Prabowo said.
Military analyst Salim Said said most people at the event were 1970 graduates, but others were also invited, such as Sutarto, because he was a former military commander, and Tri Sutrisno, who is considered a military elder.
“I was invited to the event as a military analyst to review the book before the audience. I don’t think there’s any specific reason that Prabowo wasn’t invited,” Salim told BeritaSatu.com on Thursday.
Regarding retired general Luhut Panjaitan’s statement at the event that the public should not elect a presidential candidate with a “dark history,” Salim said there were several possible interpretations.
He said that many people at the event considered it a signal from Luhut to retired generals to intervene in Prabowo’s presidential bid.
“It’s true that many people there interpreted the statement about the presidential candidate with a ‘dark history’ as a reference to Prabowo. But then again it’s just an interpretation. Luhut himself was not specific about the person,” he said.
Salim denied that the book launch event was intended to build military support to stop Prabowo from running in 2014.