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Prabowo resists calls to stand for Indonesian President, for now

Sydney Morning Herald - April 10, 2018

James Massola, Jakarta Thousands of members of Prabowo Subianto's Gerindra party will demand that he run in the 2019 Indonesian presidential elections at a national conference on Wednesday.

But the former military strongman, who lost the 2014 Presidential election to Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, is hedging his bets about standing and will likely resist those calls at least for now.

Prabowo's nephew, Aryo Djojohadikusumo told Fairfax Media Prabowo's final decision would likely be by August 10, when nominations close. Aryo, who is himself a Gerindra MP, said the party was also still working through a long list of vice presidential running mates.

"Gerindra wants to push Pak [Mr] Prabowo to run as presidential candidate. But the most important question is will he run? It depends on coalition [partners, the Prosperous Justice or PKS party]," he said.

Just weeks ago, senior officials in Gerindra had insisted Prabowo would formally confirm a re-run of the bitterly-contested 2014 election on April 11.

Joko has secured support from a broader coalition of parties than he had in 2014 and looks, at this early stage, to be in a strong position.

That Prabowo is now expected at Wednesday's party conference to resist the calls of 4500 party cadres, including 1800 MPs from national and local parliaments, to immediately confirm his candidacy, underscores the concern that Joko is the unbeatable favourite.

Many believe Prabowo's brother, the billionaire businessman and Aryo's father, Hashim Djojohadikusumo, is reluctant to again spend the huge sums of money required if a loss is likely.

Further complicating matters, Gerindra's coalition partner, PKS, have indicated they either want to choose the vice presidential candidate, or at the very least have a large say in the selection.

Former general Gatot Nurmantyo, and current Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan are two of the names most often floated as candidates to be Prabowo's deputy, or even to step up and run for president if Prabowo pulls out.

Helpfully, Gatot declared himself ready to run without nominating for which party in a magazine interview last week.

In 2014, Joko began with a huge lead over Prabowo in the polls but the final result was close, at least in part because of a so-called "black campaign" that suggested the now-President was a secret Christian, or ethnically Chinese, or both.

Political analyst Arya Fernandes, from Indonesia's Centre for Strategic and International Studies, said many Gerindra MPs wanted Prabowo to run as it would increase their chances of re-election to the national Parliament. Presidential and parliamentary elections will be held simultaneously for the first time in April 2019.

"If Prabowo doesn't run for president, Gerindra will not get significant support in the legislative elections. That's why they push him to declare [his candidacy]," Fernandes said.

But in recent polling, Jokowi had 50.8 per cent support and Prabowo 23 or 25 per cent in a field of several candidates. "This is the dilemma of Prabowo," he said.

Djayadi Hanan, the executive Director at Political Saiful Mujani Research & Consulting, agreed that Gerindra's parliamentary numbers would fall if the former general did not run.

"Prabowo and his team are making a rational calculation. Prabowo has run twice, first in 2009 as Megawati's running mate, secondly in 2014 challenging Jokowi. So, if he runs, he must have... a big opportunity to win. If the opportunity is small, it is difficult for him to decide to run again."

Source: https://www.smh.com.au/world/asia/prabowo-resists-calls-to-stand-for-indonesian-president-for-now-20180410-p4z8r8.html.

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