Prabowo declines offer of cabinet position

(VZR Nov. 6-2009)

President Yudhoyono offered two ministerial posts to Prabowo Subianto, a classmate turned political rival. Prabowo eventually declined the offers because he was reluctant to undergo the fit and proper test—given to all ministerial candidates—as well as to submit his curriculum vitae.

Yudhoyono is reported to have offered Prabowo the positions of minister of energy and minister of agriculture. According to a member of the Gerindra inner circle, minister of agriculture would have been particularly advantageous for Prabowo as he chairs the Indonesian Farmers Association (HKTI).

“Initially, the President asked whether Prabowo would be happy to lead the energy ministry; this first offering was refused as Prabowo claimed that he was not capable to be in the ministry because he lacked relevant experience.

In return, Prabowo said that he would be more competent to lead agriculture ministry because he headed the HKTI,” one Gerindra executive told the Report.

It seems unlikely that Prabowo refused to be energy minister due to a lack of experience. Lack of experience rarely stops politicians from assuming ministerial posts, and Prabowo in fact has mining experience, gained following his discharge from the military.

“Prabowo failed to get the ministerial job because he did not want to submit his curriculum vitae, nor did he want to undergo the fit and proper test as demanded by Yudhoyono,” the source said, adding that Prabowo’s reluctance to fulfill the requirements was because “he does not like any kind of administrative procedures.”

After Prabowo dropped the offers of ministerial posts, Yudhoyono tried to tempt him with another position: chairman of Presidential Advisory Council (Watimpres). Again, Prabowo was asked to comply with the administrative procedures, and again, he refused.

The reasons for Yudhoyono’s offers are not clear, though it is most likely that he wanted to enlarge his coalition as much as possible. “Instead of letting Prabowo stay in the opposition, wouldn’t it be good to ask him to join the Cabinet?” the Gerindra source asked. Still the offer is intriguing given the history of their relationship.

Yudhoyono has considered Prabowo a tough competitor ever since the two were students at the Armed Forces Academy (Akabri). Both joined Akabri in 1970, but Yudhoyono graduated in 1973, a year earlier than Prabowo, who faced sanction from the Academy due to administrative violations.

Competition between the two continued and came to a head when Prabowo formed Gerindra as his political vehicle to contest the 2009 presidential election. Even though Yudhoyono’s Democrat Party was able to defeat Prabowo’s Gerindra in the legislative elections, the competition continued with Prabowo becoming the running mate of Megawati Sukarnoputri.