JAKARTA (AFP) – Indonesian Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto has declared his entry into the country’s presidential race in 2024, his third bid for the top job in one of the world’s largest democracies.
The powerful minister is a controversial figure at home and internationally, having been accused of human rights abuses including involvement in the kidnapping and disappearance of pro-democracy activists in 1998.
Speaking late on Friday in front of thousands of members of the Great Indonesia Movement Party, or Gerindra, the former special forces commander accepted its nomination and said he was ready for the presidential bid.
“I am ready to keep fighting for the nation and the people, all my life and soul will be dedicated to our motherland,” Prabowo told the party meeting on the outskirts of the capital Jakarta.
Subianto has lost two previous bids for the presidential office, having been defeated by incumbent president and his former bitter election rival Joko Widodo in 2014 and 2019.
After his second defeat, Subianto and his team claimed the poll results were fraudulent, triggering protests in the capital that turned violent, with multiple deaths.
Widodo, who is constitutionally barred from seeking a third term, approved of Prabowo’s candidacy.
“That’s how democracy works. If a minister comes to me and tells me (he is running) there’s no way I’d say no, I can’t do that,” Widodo told journalists late on Friday.
“If that’s translated as me giving a blessing, be my guest.”
Subianto, a former son-in-law of Indonesia’s late dictator Suharto, has denied all allegations of his role in human rights abuses in Jakarta, Papua and East Timor, and he has never been charged.
Amnesty International Indonesia called the 70-year-old’s appointment as defence minister in 2019 “a dark day for human rights”.
It also condemned the administration of then United States president Donald Trump for granting Subianto a visa for a 2020 visit, after Washington had previously blocked his entry over the allegations.