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The third debate among Indonesia’s three presidential candidates focused on the South China Sea, the role of the regional grouping ASEAN in maintaining peace in the area, and various defence, foreign policy, and ethical issues.
The January 7 debate marked the third debate out of the scheduled five for Indonesia’s presidential elections on February 14, involving over 204 million eligible voters. The initial debate on December 12 delved into topics such as law, human rights, governance, corruption, democracy, and tolerance. The second debate on December 22 featured the vice-presidential candidates, focusing on discussions about the economy, investment, and trade.
In the midst of significant global crises that are challenging the international order, Indonesia’s current Minister of Defense and former general, Prabowo Subianto, has surprised the world with his intentions outlined in the debate. As a leading candidate in Indonesia’s presidential election, he revealed his ambitious plan for his nation, the largest Muslim country worldwide, to emerge as a major global power. Subianto aims to play a significant role on the world stage and address global issues, including conflicts in Gaza, Ukraine, and the Asia-Pacific region.
With just a few weeks remaining until Indonesia’s national vote on February 14, 2024, Prabowo holds a substantial lead over his two main rivals, former Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan and former Central Java governor Ganjar Pranowo.
As the leader of the Great Indonesian Movement, or the Gerindra Party, Prabowo has placed a strong emphasis on enhancing defence and security. He envisions expanding beyond the military domain if chosen as the next head of state for the rapidly developing nation, which possesses significant geopolitical potential. Prabowo has garnered approval from key stakeholders both domestically and internationally. Presently, he presents himself as the figure to usher in a new era for Indonesia, a famously non-aligned nation, during a time of profound global crises disrupting the international order and ongoing tensions between the US and China, which pose a threat to regional stability.
A former general, Prabowo, strongly expresses his vision to position Indonesia as a significant global player. He emphasizes a comprehensive approach to security, extending beyond military investments to encompass the development of the nation, the well-being of its people, and the strength of its society.
Enhancing security is a cornerstone of Prabowo’s platform. He has already demonstrated his dedication to a well-managed and well-equipped military and security forces during his tenure as Minister of Defense and this commitment will persist, with increased investment in the capacities, capabilities, and modernization of Indonesia’s armed forces and security forces.
However, his vision of security extends far beyond military and defence investments. While maintaining a robust military is crucial for defending Indonesia and addressing contemporary security challenges, he advocates for a more comprehensive approach. Prabowo thinks it’s not sufficient if Indonesia cannot ensure self-reliance in essential areas such as food, energy, and water. This broader perspective on security is integral to securing the well-being and resilience of the country.
Sustainability requires an expansion of the country’s industrial base, substantial investments in uplifting all the people from poverty, and providing essential elements such as education, healthcare, and opportunities. Additionally, fostering harmony among all ethnic and religious groups is crucial for promoting the cohesion of the Indonesian society.
Furthermore, Indonesia must take a more assertive stance in foreign policy, both bilaterally and multilaterally. Engaging actively in international forums such as the UN, OIC and ASEAN is essential.
Indonesia, a co-founder of the Non-Aligned Movement in 1961, has been firm in advocacy for the Global South and developing nations. The commitment to a world system that does not favour the developed North at the expense of the Global South has been a longstanding principle on Indonesian foreign affairs.
While Indonesia has always been active in this advocacy, the transformation the country has undergone, particularly in terms of economic development and increased influence, has elevated its role in international affairs. Notably, in 2023, Indonesia took the helm of ASEAN, and in 2022, it presided over the Group of 20, actively championing the cause of the Global South.
In the debate, Prabowo underlined the idea that as Indonesia develops and grows, it must shoulder new responsibilities commensurate with its position as an emerging power. These responsibilities extend not only to the region and the world but also to the Global South, which often finds itself relegated to the role of a spectator in events that impact it without having the ability to influence them.
As president, he will be committed to consolidating Indonesia’s role as a champion of the Global South. A key focus area will be the reform of the United Nations Security Council. Moreover, he will strive to enhance Indonesia’s role as an intermediary between the North and the South.
Drawing global attention and acknowledging security concerns, Prabowo noted the entire world is anxious because tensions between major powers like the US and China have widespread repercussions. Prabowo asserts that Indonesia will maintain its relationships with both the US and China. He states, “Both the US and China are crucial partners for us. Our relations with the US have been strong for decades, making them one of our most important partners across various sectors. Similarly, China is a vital economic partner and holds significant influence in our region. I am committed to preserving these essential partnerships.”
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