The World Today for February 14, 2024


Warm and Fuzzy Politics


Gen. Prabowo Subianto, 72, who is Indonesia’s defense minister, has pioneered the use of generative AI in his presidential campaign. The “doe-eyed cartoon” avatar of himself that he has disseminated on TikTok and other social media platforms has been key to his strategy of reaching voters younger than 40 – who comprise half of his massive country’s electorate of 205 million people, one of the largest electorates in the world, according to the Guardian.

Prabowo’s campaign catchphrase for Indonesia’s general election on Feb. 14 is “gemoy,” Indonesian slang for “cute and cuddly,” wrote Reuters, branding himself as a warm, fuzzy grandpa. Other campaigns in Prabowo’s Gerindra Party, meanwhile, have raffled off tickets to the South Korean girl group BLACKPINK, too, the Associated Press added.

As World Politics Review explained, Prabowo’s running mate is Gibran Rakabuming Raka, the 36-year-old eldest son of current Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who cannot run for reelection due to term limits. Raka’s presence on the ticket suggests that Widodo wants to uphold his political dynasty, keep his political machine in power, and maintain his domestic and international policy stances.

Running against Prabowo and Raka’s formidable campaign effort – they are far ahead in the polls – are Ganjar Pranowo, the former governor of Central Java, and Anies Baswedan, the former governor of Jakarta, the capital city. They have made inroads among voters in part because Prabowo allegedly directed the forced disappearances and murders of student activists in the late 1990s, and oversaw Indonesian troops who committed human rights abuses in East Timor before that region achieved independence in 2002.

Prabowo has never been charged in court – but American officials barred him from entering the US for years, the New York Times wrote. Still, most voters in this election are too young to remember those days.

Pranowo has stumbled, too. He snubbed Israeli soccer players, for example, to curry favor with the public – Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world and firmly pro-Palestinian. But the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) moved a tournament to Argentina in response, according to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, disappointing Indonesian football fans and cutting into his support.

Hailing from a family of Muslim activists but educated in America, Baswedan has many contradictions, the Economist noted. He holds some progressive views and is credited with building up his region’s infrastructure and effectively managing local government during the coronavirus pandemic. But he has also allied himself with Islamic parties. He faces an uphill battle convincing moderates in Indonesia’s urban areas to cast ballots for him.

Still, the magazine believes the general will win. And it warns that it doesn’t think his leadership of Indonesia will be so warm and fuzzy.

Pointing to his record of falsely claiming the vote had been stolen after losing the past two presidential elections, and statements about Indonesia needing an authoritarian leader, the magazine wrote that, “This raises a more worrying question about Indonesia’s future under a probable Prabowo presidency. Will the world’s third-largest democracy continue the broadly successful rise of the post-Suharto period, or return to authoritarianism?”

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