Indonesia’s Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto appears poised to clinch Indonesia's presidency, as initial tallies suggest. Following the world's largest single-day election, where 270 million people cast votes across the nation's 800,000 polling stations, unofficial figures propose Prabowo securing nearly 60% of the vote, subject to official confirmation in forthcoming weeks. His rivals, former Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan, aged 54, and Central Java governor Ganjar Pranowo, aged 55, trail behind at 23.93% and 17.23% of the votes respectively. On the night of 14 February 2024, thousands of Indonesians packed into a stadium cheered Prabowo’s name as they celebrated his victory. “This victory must be a victory for all the Indonesian people,” said 72-year-old Prabowo that night. In the meantime, his two opponents have yet to concede defeat, telling supporters to wait for the official tally by the election commission. Though Prabowo seems to be the popular choice and his victory seems to be assured, it is not without drama and controversy. From his darker military past to his current booming social media popularity, here are some facts you may not know about Indonesia’s prospective president. This is Prabowo’s Third Time Running for President Though this is his first victory, Prabowo had actually run for president in 2014 and 2019, both times against the seventh and current president Joko Widodo. The founder of political party Gerinda had also run for vice-president in 2009, but was unsuccessful with 26.8% of the votes. His first presidential bid garnered him 46.9% of the votes, or about eight million fewer votes than Widodo, while the second time saw 44.5%. His defeat and subsequent refusal to concede citing alleged widespread fraud had resulted in a deadly two-day riot in Jakarta which caused the death of eight individuals and injured over 200. His Vice-President will be his Former Rival’s Son Speaking of President Joko Widodo, his eldest son, 36-year-old Gibran Rakabuming Raka, is running alongside Prabowo as vice-president. Image: Reuters Prior to the elections, Gibran had followed his father’s footsteps in running as mayor of the city Solo. After studying in Singapore and Australia, Gibran returned to Singapore for a management degree. Expected to join the family furniture business, he surprised many by opening a catering business and later a pancake chain, though it eventually closed. As mayor, he focused on improving infrastructure, public transport, and promoting inclusivity. Initiatives like celebrating religious holidays in front of the town hall aimed to foster religious tolerance in the predominantly Muslim country. Gibran’s path to the vice presidency is not without controversy as well. Under electoral rules, he should have been ineligible because all candidates for the presidency and vice presidency must be at least 40 years old. In October last year, amid legal challenges to lower the age limit, Indonesia’s Constitutional Court ruled that the minimum age of 40 didn't apply to candidates with prior publicly elected office, such as Gibran. With this alliance, critics argue that President Joko has demonstrated his commitment to retaining political influence beyond his second term. Prabowo has also pledged to uphold Widodo's development initiatives and flagship projects, such as the proposed move of the administrative capital from Jakarta to East Kalimantan. Prabowo’s Political Family Background Like most powerful political figures worldwide, Prabowo hails from a family deeply rooted in the country's political and institutional fabric. His grandfather founded the nation's inaugural state bank and was a pivotal figure in Indonesia's independence movement. Additionally, his father, a prominent economist, held various cabinet positions. He followed his father who left the country in 1957 under a cloud of controversy, and spent a decade of his childhood in exile in Europe. He even married into a political family, with his former wife Titiek Soeharto, also recognized as Siti Hediati Hariyadi, being the second daughter of Indonesia's former president, Suharto. Suharto, a former general who passed away in 2002, is widely regarded as a military dictator and served as Indonesia's longest-serving president from 1968 to 1998. Following Suharto's ousting in 1998 amid the Asian financial crisis, Prabowo parted ways with his wife. Together, they share one son, who is pursuing a career in fashion design in France. Prabowo’s Military Background Upon his return from Europe, Prabowo, under his father’s encouragement, attended and graduated from the Armed Forces Academy in 1974, enlisted in the army and swiftly ascended the ranks. In 1976, Prabowo was appointed as the commander of Group 1 Komando Pasukan Sandhi Yudha (Kopassandha), a unit within the Indonesian Army's Nanggala Operation in East Timor. At 26 years old, Prabowo was the youngest Nanggala commander at the time. On 20 March 1998, Prabowo Subianto assumed the position of head of the 27,000-strong Army Strategic Reserve Command (Kostrad), a role previously held by Suharto in 1965. Prabowo’s Human Rights Abuse Allegations & Subsequent Self-imposed Exile In 1998, amidst Indonesia’s economic crisis and food shortages, allegations that troops under Prabowo's command reportedly abducted and tortured democracy activists arose and shook the nation. Prabowo admitted the abductions in a 2014 interview, but also claimed they were legal orders. He's also accused of human rights abuses in East Timor, which he also denies. In a 2020 turnaround, the US lifted its ban on him after he became defence minister. In a presidential debate on 13 December, Prabowo declared himself a "staunch defender of human rights," responding to rivals' questioning about allegations of human rights abuses. He also claimed that former detainees are currently in support of him and urged against politicising the issue. Prabowo was never charged for the aforementioned accusations, but he was discharged from the military in 1998, and went on a self-imposed exile in Jordan until 2001. Duties as Minister of Defence To the surprise of the Indonesian people, then (and current) president Joko Widodo appointed Prabowo as Indonesia’s Minister of Defence in 2019, playing a crucial role in rehabilitating his murky reputation in the public’s eye. (It was then followed by the 2019 Presidential Elections, which led to the aforementioned deadly riots… so I guess not all was well between them after all.) As Minister, Prabowo has embarked on a major modernization and upgrade of Indonesia's military hardware, including the acquisition of 42 Rafale fighter jets and fostered collaborations with foreign partners like France to enhance Indonesia's military capabilities. However some deals, such as a now-scrapped plan to purchase 12 used Mirage jets from Qatar have sparked criticism about inflated costs and tenuous utility. From Fiery Soldier to Cuddly Grandpa In an act of what some may call “character development”, Prabowo had since completely rebranded himself from a military past and now holds an image of a teddy bear-like grandfather figure to the youth of Indonesia. He did so by making use of – of course – social media. During campaign rallies, 72-year-old Prabowo Subianto has captured the hearts of young people, wiggling his hips onstage and using overly-animated arm gestures in his speeches. He began gaining attention on TikTok, where users affectionately term him "gemoy" or cute. His Instagram account is also filled with food recommendations, his pet cat and even pictures of him posing with finger hearts. Image: Instagram (@prabowo) Image: Instagram (@prabowo) Rather adorable-looking cartoon renditions of both the presidential and vice-presidential hopefuls were also utilised throughout their campaign, and it is not uncommon to see supporters donning apparel featuring these characters. Image: Getty Images According to Dr. Mada Sukmajati, a lecturer at the Department of Politics and Government, Universitas Gadjah Mada, younger voters are more likely to be swing voters whose opinions can be influenced. In discussions with students, Dr. Mada observed that younger voters prioritise issues like unemployment and the labour market over concerns about democracy or past human rights abuses, perceiving these latter issues as belonging to older generations. According to The Guardian, people aged under 40 now make up 52% of the electorate in Indonesia, which probably led to Prabowo’s swift victory. Prabowo Probably Dances Better than You Don’t think for a second that TikTok is reserved for young people, because this 72-year-old man is out there going viral and garnering millions of views on the platform because of his dance moves. Source: YouTube (METRO TV) Amidst a flurry of sky blue confetti showering upon the supporters of Prabowo during the celebrations on 14 February, the upcoming president of Indonesia was seen onstage busting out his signature (and kind of endearingly awkward) dance moves. Promises Prabowo has Made to the People of Indonesia During his campaign, Prabowo outlined several promises, including a 460 trillion rupiah initiative to provide free lunch and milk to students and expectant mothers. He also proposed increasing the number of medical schools in Indonesia from 92 to 300. Prabowo emphasised the importance of providing nutritious food to Indonesian children to address issues such as maternal deaths, malnutrition, and stunted growth. Additionally, he pledged to target a 7-8% economic growth rate and offer scholarships to 20,000 students for international studies. When the Official Presidential Results are Confirmed Though Prabowo remains in the lead ahead of his two competitors, the current results are from unofficial tallies. The national election agency is anticipated to unveil official results by 20 March 2024. If confirmed, the newly elected president will succeed Joko Widodo and officially assume office in October later in the year. Despite the happy ending for Prabowo, there are still deep-rooted doubts and fears that someone with an alleged violent past is coming into such high power. Said the Jakarta Post, “The next step for Prabowo...will be to prove his critics wrong, that instead of an anti-democratic politician, he can be a consensus builder and a compassionate leader with a stable character."