Indonesia’s Prabowo slams West for double standards, lack of moral leadership: ‘we don’t really need Europe’

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Indonesia’s leading presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto has accused the West of having double standards and losing moral leadership, saying Jakarta has been treated “unfairly” due to protectionist measures imposed on critical minerals.
Prabowo, a former special forces commander turned defence minister, said most Indonesians “have sympathy and admiration” for the United States and European Union, but that might be declining due to the latest geopolitical dynamics.
“I grew up in Europe. I maybe know European history better than Europeans. What I’m afraid of is that Europe will lose [its] moral leadership,” Prabowo said on Monday in a foreign policy talk hosted by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies Indonesia.

“[Based on] the talk within the [Global] South leaders, they say that the West has double standards. The West teaches us democracy, human rights … but the West has different standards and this will be very critical. There’s a shift in the world. Now we don’t really need Europe any more.”

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As a nation that “has been looking to the West in the past 50 or 60 years”, Prabowo said there needed to be “a rebalancing”, in which Indonesia had to “learn from other countries in the East such as Japan, [South] Korea, China and India” in aspects including eradicating corruption, improving education, imposing a strong work discipline and displaying national pride.

Prabowo has in the past few months consistently topped opinion polls compared to rivals Ganjar Pranowo – of the ruling party PDI-P – and Anies Baswedan, who runs on an opposition ticket. A survey of 1,220 people by Jakarta-based pollster Indikator Politik, released on Sunday, showed 39.7 per cent of respondents would vote for Prabowo, while 30 per cent would go for Ganjar. Anies was a distant third with only 24.4 per cent.
On Monday, Prabowo also claimed the EU did not “love” Indonesia as he perceived the bloc to have “unfairly” treated Indonesian products, such as palm oil, coffee and tea, in European markets.

“We open our market to you for your Mercedes, Volkswagen, Airbus, but you won’t allow us to sell palm oil, and now we have problems trying to sell coffee, tea, cocoa,” Prabowo said. “Sometimes there’s a bit of unfairness. I will continue the dialogue [with the EU]. I don’t want protectionism, but I want an equal playing field.”

“I used to joke that the problem is not with us, the problem is with you. We love the EU, but Europe doesn’t love us,” Prabowo added.

Workers monitor a nickel smelter in Indonesia. Prabowo says he will continue President Joko Widodo’s downstreaming policy. Photo: Reuters
Despite the treatment, Prabowo said he would continue President Joko Widodo’s downstreaming policy, as it would provide a level playing field and boost Indonesians’ welfare. The policy saw Widodo impose a ban on exports of raw minerals such as nickel and bauxite, and required miners to set up processing facilities onshore to increase the value of the commodities.
“[Widodo] has to defend national interests. I think he maintains the best relationship with China, the US and Europe, although we have problems sometimes with the EU,” the 72-year-old minister said.

In his manifesto, Prabowo, who has revamped his image from a vocal Widodo critic into his loyalist, said he would widen the ban to include “copper, tin, agriculture products, and maritime products” if he were elected as leader of Southeast Asia’s biggest economy.

Palm oil is loaded into trucks from a tanker docked at a port in East Kalimantan, Indonesia, in October. Photo: Bloomberg

Despite Prabowo’s claims, the EU has not banned Indonesian palm oil, with countries continuing their imports despite the new Deforestation Regulation coming into force in June. The law obliges companies to ensure that products sold in the EU do not cause forest loss. New regulations restricting palm oil usage for biofuels are expected to come into effect in 2026. The EU had in August launched a probe on whether Indonesian biodiesel companies were evading EU duties via third countries.

Data from Indonesia’s statistical agency BPS showed that between January and July this year, Spain imported US$408 million worth of Indonesian palm oil, up from US$369 million in the same period last year, while Italy’s Indonesian palm oil imports increased to US$318 million from US$314 million last year.

However, some EU countries have stopped importing Indonesian palm oil altogether. France last year imported US$44 million of palm oil between January and July last year, but none in the same period this year.

Presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto greets supporters in Jakarta, Indonesia, in October. Prabowo has vowed to remain neutral in the face of rising geopolitical tensions in the region. Photo: AP

Staying neutral

Prabowo also vowed to remain neutral in the face of rising geopolitical tensions in the region, saying he was “optimistic” that world leaders would “will rise to the occasion” to prevent conflict from escalating.

Prabowo pointed to the recent meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, and Xi’s coming summit with US President Joe Biden, saying world leaders “realise the great risk that can erupt if these competitions are not calibrated”.

“Our tradition has been non-alliance. We don’t wish to be part of any geopolitical bloc,” Prabowo added. “And this is a tradition I’m committed to continue and to pursue, because it is the wish of the majority of the Indonesian people, and more importantly it’s in our national interest.”


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Asked how he would maintain Indonesia’s leadership in Southeast Asia, Prabowo said he would showcase “successful economic management” to ensure the nation could continue “taking care of the poor and the sick”.

“If we are successful in promoting an economic model that shows that there will be growth and social justice and equal opportunity for everybody, then I think we will attain a position of leadership [in the region],” Prabowo said.

He also reiterated his commitment to the Palestinian cause amid the Israel-Gaza war, and “continue to support an independent Palestine based on the UN Resolution”.

“We had been colonised, so we understand [what it feels like to be] colonised. We will do our best to support the Palestinians,” he said.

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