A political science lecturer at the Muhammadiyah University in Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara, Dr Ahmad Atang said Subianto Prabowo’s joining President Joko (Jokowi) Widodo’s cabinet has weakened the opposition in Indonesia.
But he hoped the former opposition leader will add colour and bring expertise to the new government.
Jokowi surprised the country and the entire region when he picked his election rival and leader of the opposition Gerindra Party, retired general Prabowo Subianto, as his defence minister.
Prabowo fought two presidential election battles against Jokowi, with his supporters attacking the latter on social media for years after his first defeat of the belligerent ex-general.
Ahmad Atang said to the BBC Prabowo became a truly extraordinary symbol of opposition, one that could control the powers of the Jokowi government.
But his taking over the minister’s job and placing himself in the corridors of power has weakened the entire institution of the opposition.
Yet, he said, joining Jokowi’s cabinet could also be a considered a positive step given the fact the people were sorely divided on the choice between Jokowi and Prabowo.
Albeit the country will now enter an era of a weaker system of supervision and balance because they lost the central figure.
Another political observer Adi Prayitno said Prabowo taking over as Minister of Defense is a spectacular event.
To many supporters of Prabowo, it is not an easy thing to accept seeing Prabowo as an assistant to Jokowi, afterall, the latter is the most powerful man in the democracy.
To Adi himself it was a surprise, but he quoted the philosophy of the army.
“There is a philosophy in the army that soldier never die, so soldiers never die, as long as their lives are attached to the body, the limits of their service to the country do not know age,” said Adi.
Prabowo was suspected of playing a role in the May 1998 riots that targeted Chinese Indonesians, which many of his supporters reject.
And this could become a challenge for Prabowo because his appointment stirred concerns in China too. Prabowo accused Jokowi’s government of allowing Chinese nationals to get jobs normally reserved to locals and for allegedly granting nationality to the foreign Chinese workers.
This controversy has not subdued and the Indonesian social media scene is still buzzing with accusations that Chinese nationals voted for Jokowi in the last Presidential elections in April.
Prabowo’s anti-Chinese stance will not stop there and he may use his position at the Defense Ministry to push this agenda, though Beijing believes there is little that can be done to prevent closer ties between Indonesia and China, according to the South China Morning Post.
When word spread that Prabowo was to become the Defense Minister, netizens reacted.
it became a trending topic on various social media, and on Twitter in particular.
“One of the biggest plot twist in Indonesian politics. Can’t imagine Prabowo finally gives Jokowi the Siap, Pak Presiden! (Be prepared Jokowi) salute while lining up with the others,” wrote @senjatanuklir
Others are concerned and disappointed with Jokowi’s decision because they do not trust Prabowo.
“I guess with Prabowo’s appointment as Minister of Defence is to ensure the military’s support to Jokowi which has been lacking in his previous term. I’m still not totally on board with this idea tbh,” wrote @arinoarinoo. -/TISG