Jakarta,Indonesia – The Indonesian Presidential Candidate (candidate) who is also Minister of Defense (Menhan), Prabowo Subianto, is again in the spotlight of foreign media. Most recently, British media, BBC, reported about the former Danjen Kopassus.
Prabowo is running to replace President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) in the presidential election (pilpres) on February 14. According to the BBC, he promised more stability and sustainability of Jokowi-style economic development.
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So far opinion polls put Prabowo ahead of his younger rivals, Ganjar Pranowo and Anies Baswedan. Both figures are in their 50s and have experience leading important provinces in Indonesia as governors.
Prabowo’s running mate is Jokowi’s eldest son, Gibran Rakabuming Raka. This is considered a form of Jokowi’s support for Prabowo, as well as a sign that Jokowi approves of Prabowo becoming his successor.
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However, Prabowo’s candidacy also worries many people. Some say he was never held accountable for the alleged kidnapping and murder of pro-democracy student activists decades ago.
Apart from that, Prabowo, who currently appears with an adorable persona or what is usually called ‘gemoy’, is seen by a number of circles as something that should not be an indicator of voters voting for Prabowo.
“Cuteness hardly qualifies a leader. If you think a leader should be like that, then you have to choose a cat,” said an unnamed young man quoted by BBC News in an article entitled ‘Prabowo Subianto: The ‘cuddly grandpa’ with a bloody past’, Wednesday (7/2/2024).
Cats are also part of Prabowo’s social media campaign. His brown and white stray cat, Bobby, has a well-curated Instagram account that describes Prabowo as a “patriot”.
Social media has become the cornerstone of his outreach. Millennials and Gen Z make up more than half of the 205 million eligible voters in Indonesia.
According to Meta data, Prabowo’s official Facebook account and affiliates spent US$ 144,000 (Rp. 2.25 billion) on advertising over the last three months. This amount is almost double Ganjar Pranowo’s spending and three times Anies Baswedan’s spending.
“I rarely see a real picture of Prabowo anymore,” wrote the BBC, including a researcher at Atma Jaya University, Yoes C Kenawas.
“Instead, the internet, living rooms and streets are filled with posters of Prabowo as a fat cartoon character. That’s their way of softening his image. And so far, it’s working quite well.”
A spokesman for Prabowo’s campaign team said they were only trying to attract the younger generation through a fun campaign. According to Prabowo’s team, this is not something bad,
“Politics can be conveyed through different methods… that’s not a bad thing,” said Prabowo-Gibran National Campaign Team (TKN) spokesman, Dedek Prayudi.
Prabowo ran for president, but lost in 2014 and 2019. However, this time his campaign is very different, with young voters saying they prefer to judge Prabowo based on how he tackles unemployment and the cost of living.
“The logic is that Prabowo’s defeat was, at least in part, because his strong image and inflammatory style alienated some voters,” added the BBC’s Dr Eve Warburton, director of the Indonesian Institute at Australia’s National University.