Prabowo impresses Huffington Post’s Weiss as presidential candidate for Indonesia

If the Huffington Post‘s Stanley Weiss is right, and Prabowo is leading the pack among Indonesia’s presidential candidates, the implication is that SBY is Prabowo’s biggest electoral asset.

Prabowo: The future president of Indonesia?

Why? Because SBY’s namby-pamby, make-no-tough-decisions style is driving Indonesians to the level of frustration that Prabowo starts to look very good in contrast. In politics and logic this is called occupying the extremes. One someone else occupies an extreme position, you start to look good relative to that person.

So well done as Prabowo’s most effective campaigner, SBY!

The Courage to Jump in Indonesia

JAKARTA–Five years ago, one of the most respected soldiers in U.S. history died too soon. Wayne Downing was a West Point graduate and four-star general who served two tours in Vietnam and came out of retirement after 9/11 to serve as anti-terrorism advisor to President George W. Bush. Known as the father of the modern Rangers , Downing commanded America’s elite counter-terrorism teams in the 1990s and spent decades training foreign soldiers who came to Fort Bragg to learn about democracy. Not long before he died, I had lunch with General Downing at the White House. He told me that of all the foreign soldiers he ever trained, two stood out. One was Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein , the reigning King of Jordan. The other was Prabowo Subianto , the former commander of Indonesia’s special forces, and the current front-runner to be Indonesia’s next president in 2014.

Meeting with Prabowo , now a successful businessman, and his wealthy brother Hashim Djojohadikusumo here in this capital city, it’s not hard to see what General Downing saw. Prabowo is strategic and insightful, remarkably idealistic about his country and confident about its future. The scion of one of Indonesia’s most prestigious families, he grows passionate when he speaks about the nation’s income inequalities. He embodies a strength that is later captured well by Juwono Sudarsono , the respected former Minister of Defense, who tells me, “Prabowo leads the pack because he projects grit, firm leadership and decisiveness–which are seen to be lacking in our current leadership.”

That Prabowo is part of the conversation at all here is a testament to both his survival skills and the growing pains felt by this archipelago nation in its second decade of democracy. In some ways, he is the last person Westerners expected to be in a position of leadership–which has some wondering what his ascension means for Indonesia, and the future of Asia’s democracies.

Fourteen years ago, the former general was one of the most detested men in Indonesia . The then-son-in-law of former dictator Suharto, Prabowo was accused of leading deadly crackdowns against democracy activists in Suharto’s waning days, inciting riots that led to Suharto’s ouster and leading a coup attempt against his replacement. Although never charged with wrongdoing, Prabowo was found guilty of “exceeding orders ” by a military ethics committee and dismissed by the army . For his alleged role in the riots, he was the first person in U.S. history to be denied a visa for violating the United Nations Convention Against Torture. He is anathema to human rights organizations in the West- -but Indonesia may be willing to look past that history.


How to tell voters you don’t have your act together

Unspun supposes we all have to blame Oprah Winfrey. When she started Twittering, then it must be good for the masses and everyone should somehow Tweet as well.

Perhaps it is for this reason, but maybe also because some young entrepreneurs saw a chance to milk the Indonesian Presidential candidates for some easy money, the candidates had taken to Twittering.

Over the weekend many Indonesian Twitterers were surprised to receive a “follow” from Megawati and Prabowo. Many readers reacted with surprise that the Dynamic Duo was following them. Some were flattered, others were vehement in shooing them away. The rest felt in between where sentiments were concerned.Megapro twits

Unspun, even though he can’t vote, received a follow too and, ever polite person that he is, returned the courtesy. Then his innate curiousity drove him to the Twitter home page of Megapro. There he encountered a strange message:


Ever obedient Unspun went to Megabowo and saw:

megabowoWanting to know more, Unspun then clicked on the link to the Web page of the account holder and goess what he found?

Prabowo’s Facebook page.

So what does this all say about the communications efforts of the Megapro/bowo team?

1. That they don’t have their act together

2. That Prabowo or his team is behind the New Media efforts and mega is still probably struggling with how to send a SMS. Notice that the photo in both the Twitter accounts are of Prabowo’s face, not Mega and Prabowo’s, not much of an assurance of unity here. Someone also said that initially Prabowo’s backdrop was of the PDIP red-white color but today its been changed to Gerindra red.

3. That Prabowo seems to be in the driver’s seat so if by a long shot the duo are elected into office, we’ll know who wears the pants in that relationship. Hint: its below XXXL.

4. That Prabowo’s team was hasty and impulsive. Otherwise why go with Megapro and then change it to Megabowo in a matter of hours. If they can’t think through the name thay want to use as a handle for their partnership, what other things can’t they think through?

Seriously though, why would anyone vote for this team, given that they can’t even get their act together even on Twitter, let alone the more important affairs of state?

Vote against political elitism

If Unspun could vote, he’d certainly be casting his ballot for SBY and Boediono in the upcoming presidential elections.

SBY’s weaknesses in the past were based on perceptions that he is slow to decide if he comes to a decision at all; that he is weak when it comes to making tough decisions; and that he lacks charisma; that he is more of a bureaucrat rather than a politician.


Photo from the Jakarta Globe
Photo from the Jakarta Globe

In the past few days, at least to Unspun, he’s managed to change these perceptions somewhat with the appointment of Biediono as his running mate in the presidential elections. Someone who is weak would not have stayed the course in keeping to the choice of Boediono as Vice President candidate when the Muslim Wallahs in his political coalition mounted a protest. SBY was steadfast and the Muslim wallahs backed down (and how do they expect people to respect them after their vocal objections against Boediono being unfit to be vice president because — of all things – Boediono was not enough of  a good Muslim for them “even though he prays every Friday at the mosque?” (There is very defective and sick reasoning going on here).


More important is that by choosing Boediono, SBY has shown great political astuteness and original thinking that will bode well for Indonesia if he wins a second term. In choosing Boediono SBY departed from conventional thought that you needed the leader of a coalition partner to win the election. It is obvious, yet it escapes the realization of most of the Indonesian politicians, that he alone is enough to win the presidential elections. The other parties have no credibility left.

Golkar is finished when Jusuf Kalla foolishly accepted Surya Paloh’s poison pill to put his name up for the presidential elections. Since then the cracks that were already existing in Golkar have widened even more and unless the party conducts major surgery  they are a spent political force in indonesia. How Wiranto would help them get more votes is amystery.

PDIP is also running on empty. Megawati and her husband Taufik cling on to a power base that supports them through bovine force of habit or tradition. Prabowo looked good for a moment before the legislative elections because of the perceived deep pockets Gerindra had. His other strength was that he was perceived as a “strongman,” capable of making tough but necessary decisions. Now that he’s agreed to be under the Fat Lady, that macho image must be under quite a lot of pressure.

SBY’s choice of Biediono, however, sends all the right signals. Most of us know that he and Kalla did not get along during the first term and that Kalla and his merry men, including Aburizal Bakrie, were running rings round the president to frustrate and undermine him for their own interests.In choosing Boediono SBY is sending a message to Indonesians that he is capable of making tough decisions and then sticking to them; he’s also saying that with Kalla and Co out of the way there is a huge possibility that his second terms administration will be more decisive and effective. He is also sending out a message that the anti-corruption moves will prevail.

All good messages but the most interesting one of all is the message that he is sending to the political elites who have been lording over the rest of us: your time is up. Change or face obscurity. Already I don’t need your support to in the Presidency. Your parties are useless – they will not win the votes.

This is certainly great news for Indonesia. It will force the parties to examine their selves, hopefully foment a rebellion or two within the established parties and result in political parties that realize that the only way to win support is by working for the interests of the people. So get your ass out on voting day and cast your ballot for SBY Berbudi.