Indonesia awards presumed next president Prabowo rank of four-star general

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia’s president on Wednesday awarded Prabowo Subianto, his presumed successor and an ex-special forces commander, the rank of honorary four-star general, decades after he was dismissed from the military amid allegations of rights abuses.

Defence Minister Prabowo, who took an insurmountable lead in the Feb. 14 presidential election according to unofficial quick counts, was awarded the rank of four-star general by outgoing President Joko Widodo in a ceremony at the military headquarters in Jakarta.

“This honour is a form of appreciation, it reaffirms devotion to the people and the country. I would like to say congratulations to General Prabowo Subianto,” he said, before attaching lapels with four gold stars on Prabowo’s blazer.

The award marks the culmination of a decades-long rebrand for Prabowo, 72, a once rising military star who was dismissed from the military in 1998 amid accusations he was involved in human rights abuses in East Timor and in the disappearance of 13 pro-democracy activists.

At the time, he was a three-star Lieutenant General.

Prabowo, the ex-son-in-law of late Indonesian dictator Suharto, has always denied wrongdoing, but was previously banned from entering the United States on account of the claims. He has never faced prosecution.

Prabowo sought self-exile in Jordan following his discharge from the military, but in the decades since he has returned to Indonesia, has built an influential political party and civilian career. In 2014 and 2019 he lost consecutive presidential bids to Jokowi, as the incumbent leader is known, before being brought into the government as defence minister in 2019.

Preliminary but unofficial results show Prabowo with a clear lead in this year’s election, with the expectation that he will be inaugurated as Indonesia’s next president in October.

Analysts have warned that Prabowo’s presumed win comes as Indonesia is experiencing a democratic backslide, with Amnesty International Indonesia saying Prabowo’s new title was an attempt to “whitewash” his alleged dark past.

A spokesperson for Prabowo did not immediately respond to request for comment.

The alliance between Prabowo and Jokowi has strengthened considerably in recent months and particularly after Jokowi’s millennial son was controversially named as Prabowo’s running mate.

(Reporting by Stanley Widianto and Ananda Teresia; Writing by Kate Lamb; Editing by Kanupriya Kapoor and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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