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Prabowo Subianto
File:Prabowo wapres.jpeg
Personal details
Born Prabowo Subianto Djojohadikusumo
(1951-10-17) 17 October 1951 (age 62)
Jakarta, Indonesia
Nationality Indonesian
Political party The Great Indonesia Movement Party (GERINDRA)
Children Didit Prabowo
Religion Islam
Website Facebook Page
Military service
Allegiance Indonesia
Service/branch Indonesian Army
Rank Lieutenant General
Commands Kostrad

Prabowo Subianto (born 17 October 1951) is an Indonesian businessman, politician and former special forces soldier. In the Indonesian presidential election, 2009 he ran for the vice-presidency as part of Megawati Sukarnoputri's campaign for president.[1] In November 2011, Prabowo announced his intention to run for president in the next Indonesian presidential election, 2014.[2] Prabowo is the son of Soemitro Djojohadikoesoemo and former husband of Titiek Suharto, the late President Suharto's daughter.[3]

Family Background

Prabowo's grandfather, Margono Djojohadikusumo, was the founder of Bank Negara Indonesia, the first leader of Indonesia's Temporary Advisory Council (Dewan Pertimbangan Agung Sementara), and Indonesia's Group for the Preparation of Independence (Badan Penyelidik Usaha Persiapan Kemerdekaan Indonesia).[4]

Prabowo's father, Sumitro Djojohadikusumo, was an economist who served as former President Suharto's minister for the economy and minister for research and technology.[5] Sumitro named Prabowo after his own younger brother, a martyr hero who died in a battle against the Dutch in Yogyakarta during the Indonesian National Revolution.[6] Prabowo has two older sisters, Bintianingsih and Mayrani Ekowati, and one younger brother, Hashim Djojohadikusumo. Hashim's pribumi conglomerate business interests stretch from Indonesia to Canada and Russia.[7] Sumitro encouraged his son to attend military academy. One of Prabowo's role models was Turkish military figure Ataturk, and according to peers and observers, Prabowo was talented with a passion for stratagems and had an appetite for political power.[6]

Prabowo married Suharto's daughter, Siti Hediati Hariyadi, 1983. They have a son, Didiet Prabowo who used to live in Boston before settling in Paris to pursue a career in design.[8]

Military career

Prabowo enrolled in Indonesia's Military Academy in Magelang in 1970.[9] He graduated in 1974 with others who would gain senior leadership positions such as Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.[9]

In 1976, Prabowo was assigned as commander of Group 1 Komando Pasukan Sandhi Yudha (Kopassandha), which is part of the Indonesian Army's Nanggala Operation in East Timor.[9] Prabowo, then 26 years old, was the youngest Nanggala commander.[9] Prabowo led the mission to capture the vice president of Fretilin, who was the first Prime Minister of East Timor, Nicolau dos Reis Lobato.[9] Guiding Prabowo was Antonio Lobato – Nicolau's younger brother. Prabowo's company found Nicolau as he was being escorted in Maubisse, fifty kilometers south of Dili. Nicolau died from a bullet wound to his stomach on 31 December 1978.[9]

In 1983 Prabowo was appointed vice commander of Kopassus's 81 Detachment before going to Fort Benning, in the United States for commando training.[9]

As commander of Kopassus Group 3 in the early 1990s, Major General Prabowo attempted to crush the East Timorese independence movement by using irregular troops (hooded "ninja" gangs dressed in black and operating at night) and, in main towns and villages, militias trained and directed by Kopassus commanders. Human rights abuses rose. The Army's 1997 campaign was called Operation Eradicate.[10]

In 1996, Prabowo led the Mapenduma Operation in the mountainous terrain of Papua, Indonesia. The goal of the operation was the release of 11 scientific researchers, who had been taken hostage by the Free Papua Movement. The researchers comprised five Indonesians, four Britons, one Dutchman and his pregnant German wife. Two of the Indonesian male hostages were killed shortly before the rescue operation. The mission involved covert support from British Military Attache and SAS veteran Colonel Ivor Helberg. The operation was criticized for using the Red Cross emblem on a white helicopter to deceive the Papuan rebels.[11]

On 20 March 1998, Prabowo was appointed head of the 27,000-strong Army Strategic Reserve Command (Kostrad), the key Jakarta garrison that Suharto had commanded in 1965.[12]

Abductions and the 1998 riots

Troops under Prabowo's command kidnapped and tortured at least nine democracy activists in the late 1990s.[13] In their testimonies, former detainees told of being tortured for days in an unidentified location, allegedly a military camp where most of their time was spent blindfolded, while being forced to answer repeated questions, mainly concerning their political activities. According to the testimonies, they were kicked, punched, terrorized physically and mentally, and given electric shocks.[14]

In early 1998, as the effect of the East Asian financial crisis began to worsen for Indonesians, and social disorder and open resentment of Suharto's administration increased, Prabowo publicly urged Indonesian Muslims to join him to fight "traitors to the nation".[15] In a private conversation with Sofyan Wanandi, Prabowo said he was willing "to drive all the Chinese out of the country even if that sets the economy back twenty or thirty years."[16] and "You Chinese Catholics are trying to topple Suharto". To which Sofyan replied "Only Muslims or the Army are strong enough to do that. It's ridiculous to think that groups as small as Chinese or Christians could do it."[15]

On the first day of the May 1998 riots, Prabowo urged armed forces commander, Wiranto, to let him bring his Strategic Reserve units from outside Jakarta into the city.[17] In the previous weeks, hundreds of men trained by Kopassus (under Prabowo's command from 1995 until February 1998) were flown from Dili to Yogyakarta in chartered planes, and then on to Jakarta by train.[18] On the morning of 14 May, Kopassus troops escorted young thugs from Lampung in southern Sumatra into the capital.[19] Thus Prabowo was accused of using his allies and recent command to import minions to create more trouble while Wiranto had declined to give Prabowo's current command, Kostrad, permission to quell the existing trouble, in line with classic Javanese tactic to stir chaos to discredit a rival and/or seize power.[18][20]

Later investigations into the May riots revealed that violence in Jakarta was the result of an internal struggle within the military elite to become Suharto's successor.[21] Many believed Prabowo, as Strategic Reserve commander, sought to become his father-in-law's successor and coveted the Commander of the Armed Forces position held by General Wiranto, who was favored to succeed Suharto. He was also suspected of organizing the kidnappings of students and activists prior to the 1997 election (13 of whom remain "missing"). Together with Operations Commander for Greater Jakarta (Panglima Komando Operasi Jakarta Raya, Pangkoops Jaya) Major General Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin, Prabowo aimed to terrorize opponents of the government and to show that Wiranto was "an incompetent commander who could not control disorder".[22][23] During the months of August and September, the fact finding team interviewed Prabowo, Sjafrie, and other military commanders regarding their movements during the Jakarta riots. Prabowo asserted that he was unsure of the precise movements of military forces in the capital and deferred to Sjafrie.[24] In its final report, the fact finding team suspected that, on the night of 14 May, Prabowo met with several Armed Forces and prominent civilian figures at the Kostrad headquarters to discuss organization of the violence.[25] However, this was later refuted by several people who attended the meeting, including prominent human rights lawyer Adnan Buyung Nasution and Joint Fact Finding Team member Bambang Widjojanto.[26] Further testimonies by Prabowo[27] in the years following the investigation contradicted the team's report and led to skepticism of the team's allegations.[28]

On the afternoon following Habibie's inauguration as President on 21 May, Lt Gen Prabowo demanded of Habibie that he be put in charge of the army in place of Wiranto. However, Habibie and Wiranto demoted Prabowo from Kostrad commander instead, and the following day announced Wiranto's promotion to Minster of Defence and Security and to TNI commander. A furious Prabowo went to the Presidential Palace packing a side arm and with trucks of his Kostrad troops. On being blocked from entering the Habibie's office, he instead went to Suharto who rebuked him.[29][30] He was summoned by Wiranto on the 23rd, and reassigned to a non-active role in Bandung.[31]

Following the TNI investigation,[32] Prabowo acknowledged responsibility for the kidnapping of the activists.[33] He was discharged from military service in August. He and Wiranto denied that the discharge was a result of disciplinary action.[34] In August 1998, the Dewan Kehormatan Perwira (Officers Council of Honor) tried, and found Prabowo guilty of "exceeding orders" in the kidnapping of anti-Suharto activists in 1998.[35] He was discharged from military services, and went into a voluntary exile in Jordan[34] where he knew that country's new young King Abdullah as a fellow commander of special forces.[33] In an interview for Newsweek Magazine in 2000, Prabowo firmly said "I never threatened Habibie. I was not behind the riots. That is a great lie. I never betrayed Pak Harto. I never betrayed Habibie. I never betrayed my country."[32]

In 2000, Prabowo became the first person to be denied entry into the United States under the provisions of the United Nations Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. A combination of "foreign policy considerations, a reasonable belief that he was involved in the riots which devastated Jakarta in 1998 and coincidental timing" were reason put forwarded for the visa ban.[36][37]

Business career

After leaving the military, Prabowo joined his brother

Prabowo rebranded Kiani Kertas to Kertas Nusantara. Today, Prabowo's Nusantara Group controls 27 companies in Indonesia and abroad. Prabowo's companies includes Nusantara Energy (oil and natural gas, coal), Tidar Kerinci Agung (palm oil plantations) and Jaladri Nusantara (fishery industry).[39]

Prabowo was the wealthiest presidential candidate in the 2009 election, with ownership of Rp 1.5 trillion (about US$ 150 million) and US$ 7.5 million.[40]


  • The Indonesian Farmers' Association was established in 1973 to advocate for the farmers' rights. Prabowo was elected President of HKTI in 2004,[41][42] and he was reappointed in 2010 for a second term.[43]
  • The Indonesian Traditional Market Traders Association (APPSI) is a non-profit organisation advocating for the welfare of traders in Indonesia's traditional markets. Prabowo was elected as president of APPSI in 2008.[44]
  • Pencak silat is one of Indonesia's traditional martial arts. The Indonesian Pencak Silat Association (IPSI) oversees the regulation of the sport in Indonesia, develops athletes, and organises tournaments. Prabowo was elected as president of IPSI in 2004 and was re-elected in 2012 for a third consecutive term.[45]


Using Prabowo's connections to President Suharto, he and his brother worked to silencing journalistic and political critics in the 1990s. Hasyim unsuccessfully pressured Goenawan Mohamad to sell his outspoken and banned Tempo magazine to him.[46] As lieutenant colonel, Prabowo invited Gus Dur to his battalion headquarters in 1992 and warned him to stick to religion and to stay out of politics, or face unspecific actions if continued to oppose the President.[47] He later warned the intellectual Nurcholish Madjid (Cak Nur) to resign from the KIPP, the election monitoring unit set up by Goenawan Mohamad, and which armed forces commander Feisal Tanjung had denounced as "obviously unconstitutional".[48]

In 2004, Prabowo was one of five contenders vying to become Golkar party's presidential candidate. He received the lowest number of votes, just 39, and was eliminated in the first round.[49] The second round of voting was won by Wiranto. In early 2008, Prabowo's inner circle, including Fadli Zon established the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) which nominated Prabowo for presidency in the 2009 elections.[50] However, having won 26 out of 560 seats in the Indonesian parliament, the party did not have the required numbers and Prabowo ran as vice presidential candidate to Megawati Soekarnoputri, daughter of Indonesia's first president Sukarno. The pair, referred to colloquially by the Indonesian media as Mega–Pro, earned 27% of the vote and lost to incumbent President of Indonesia Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his running mate, economist Boediono.[51] In November 2011, Prabowo said he will run in the 2014 presidential elections.[52] He has a lead in some surveys including one published by the Center for Policy Studies and Strategic Development (Puskaptis)[53] and by the Indonesian Survey Institute published on 23 February 2012.[54] Observers and activists cast doubt on the results and criticized the pollsters.[55] In March 2012, the Great Indonesia Movement Party named Prabowo their 2014 presidential candidate.[56] As of then, the party's slogan was changed to Gerindra Menang Prabowo Presiden (Gerindra Wins, Prabowo Becomes President)[57]

Poll source Date Highlights
Institute for Strategic and Public Policy Research (Inspire) 26 March – 3 April 2011 Anas Urbaningrum 38.7%, Hamengkubuwana X 35.7%, Prabowo Subianto 35.4%, Hidayat Nur Wahid 32.2%, Mahfud MD 25.9%, Surya Paloh 23.4%, Aburizal Bakrie 22.3%, Puan Maharani 16.7%, Kristiani Herawati 15.9%, Sri Mulyani Indrawati 14.7%
Soegeng Sarjadi Syndicate (SSS) 3–8 October 2011 Prabowo Subianto 28%, Mahfud MD 10.6%, Sri Mulyani Indrawati 7.4%, Aburizal Bakrie 6.8%, Said Akil Siradj[58] 6%, Din Syamsuddin 5,2%, Pramono Edhie Wibowo 4,2%, Jusuf Kalla 4,0%, Djoko Suyanto 3,2%, Hatta Rajasa 2,8%, Surya Paloh 2,5%.
Jaringan Suara Indonesia (JSI) 10–15 October 2011 Megawati Soekarnoputri 19,6%, Prabowo Subianto 10,8%, Aburizal Bakrie 8,9%, Wiranto 7,3%, Hamengkubuwana X 6,5%, Hidayat Nur Wahid 3,8%, Surya Paloh 2,3%, Sri Mulyani Indrawati 2,0%, Kristiani Herawati 1,6%, Hatta Rajasa 1,6%, Anas Urbaningrum 1,5%, Sutanto 0,2%, Djoko Suyanto 0,2%.
Reform Institute October 2011 Aburizal Bakrie 13.58%, Prabowo Subianto 8.46%, Jusuf Kalla 7.06%, Hidayat Nur Wahid 5.17%, Kristiani Herawati 4.13%.
Center for Policy Studies and Strategic Development (Puskaptis) 22 January – 2 February 2012 Prabowo Subianto 16.4%, Hatta Rajasa 14,6%, Aburizal Bakrie 13.5%, Megawati Soekarnoputri 13%, Akbar Tandjung 12,7%.
Indonesian Survey Institute (LSI) 1–12 February 2012 Megawati Soekarnoputri 22.2%, Prabowo Subianto 16.8%, Aburizal Bakrie 10.9%, Wiranto 10,6%, Hatta Rajasa 5,4%, other names 10.3%, undecided voters 23.8%.



Further reading

  • Asiaweek: An Idealist's Rise And Fall
  • ABC Foreign Correspondent: The Farmer Wants a Country
  • Jakarta Globe: Rebranding Brings Prabowo Into the Electoral Frame
  • Military Politics and Democratization in Indonesia (Routledge Research on Southeast Asia)

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