2015 年 61 巻 4 号 p. 22-41
Indonesia’s post-Suharto governments have conducted democratic elections every five years since 1999 for both parliaments and presidency. The latest elections in 2014 showed a heated battle between two presidential contenders, namely Joko Widodo (popularly called Jokowi)—the Governor of Jakarta—and Prabowo Subianto who led his right-wing political party, Gerindra. The victory of Jokowi in the presidential election has widely been seen as a success story of ordinary man with no elite background to enjoy strong grass-roots support. Jokowi’s rise to Indonesia’s seventh president is therefore evaluated both domestically and internationally as a critical step towards the country’s democratic consolidation.
However, the fact that Prabowo—who was Suharto’s son-in-law and a top army general during the authoritarian days—gained 47% of total votes and performed a close contest with Jokowi should not be ignored to understand the nature of electoral democracy in post-Suharto Indonesia. Why could Prabowo, a legacy of the authoritarian heyday, gain such a large number of votes and become a serious threat to Jokowi? It was antiforeign nationalism and Suharto-era romanticism that characterized Prabowo’s electoral appeal. On the one hand, he clamored for the return to good old days in facing today’s ‘excessive’ democracy heavily influenced by the West. On the other hand, he openly criticized that foreign companies operating in Indonesia are predators who exploit the country’s economic resources, insisting on the need for propelling protectionism in various sectors in the name of saving the country. If he were the winner of the 2014 presidential election, Indonesia’s democratic outlook would be very different.
This article examines the dynamics of Prabowo’s electoral challenge and reveals socio-economic structures that contributed to his vote mobilization. I argue that Prabowo’s challenge has been discussed mostly in the context of his personal political ambition, but it actually goes beyond that and resonates with socio-economic cleavages that have been deepened under the previous government led by President Yudhoyono (2004–2014). Thus, the article concludes, it is possible that a similar challenge will recur even without Prabowo in the future, and, to understand such a threat to democratic consolidation, it is important for us to ‘de-personalize’ Prabowo’s challenge and examine the socio-economic vulnerability that creates wider political space for right-wing conservative elitism to maneuver in the age of globalization.