Mr. Prabowo Subianto lost the April election to Joko Widodo by around 17 million votes, accused the government of electoral fraud and urged supporters to take the streets to oppose the electoral outcome, which resulted extreme political violence. However, in a twist of events, Mr. Subianto expressed his support to President Jokowi and his willingness to unite and help.
Now, some months after the two men took selfies together at the presidential palace and were apparently in discussions about joining forces in a coalition, President Jokowi has officially appointed his former opponent as Defense Ministry as he inaugurated his new Cabinet.
When it came to announcing Prabowo as defense minister, Jokowi only said: “I believe I don’t have to tell him about his job, he knows more than I do.” On the other side, when meeting reporters after his inauguration, Prabowo briefly commented “I will learn about the recent situation and then start working.”
The appointment of Prabowo to the defense ministry, which was widely expected after he had been summoned by Jokowi on Monday, was met with criticism from human rights activists, who pointed to Prabowo’s tainted track record and questioned whether he was the right person to lead the ministry that should spearhead military reforms.
Rights group Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) said Prabowo joining the Cabinet showed that Jokowi “does not understand that human rights and democracy should be considerations in picking ministerial candidates”. During his time in the Army, Prabowo was implicated in the kidnapping of prodemocracy activists in 1997 and 1998 in his capacity as commander of the Army’s Special Forces (Kopassus).