Max Lane on Gerindra’s ‘Populism’

From Max Lane’s recent article for the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies publication Perspective, in which he sets the stage for Indonesia’s 2014 elections:

Another former general who has declared his candidacy is Prabowo Subianto of GERINDRA. Subianto is more controversial and more strongly associated with the New Order’s reputation for repression. He played an active role in 1997 and 1998 in trying to preserve the Suharto government in the face of popular opposition, even to the extent of organizing the kidnapping of student activists. He was eventually dismissed from the Army for these actions. Subianto’s difficulty is that Gerindra is also unlikely, based on present indications, to win more than 20% of the popular vote. In 2009, Gerindra only received 4.4% of the popular vote, while recent polls suggest that its support rating is at 11%. Subianto’s profile is based more on a perceived comparison, in some segments of the electorate, with Yudhoyono, where the latter is seen to be without combat experience and to be indecisive, while the former is seen as a decisive combat officer. However, this niche will not come into play since Subianto will not be facing Yudhoyono in the 2014 election.

In the 2004 election, Subianto stood as Vice-President in a Megawati-Subianto team. Could this happen again? Gerindra’s parliamentary record has seen it align more frequently with the ruling coalition than with the PDIP. Even in June this year when Gerindra voted against fuel price increases, along with the PDIP (and Hanura and PKS), it did so in a last minute switch. Gerindra and Prabowo used rhetoric that is similar to those of the PDIP on the “peoples’ economics” and so on, but it has also spoken out against wage rises and labour demonstrations while the PDIP has associated itself with such demands.


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