Saudis, UAE hide their role in Indonesian polls by defaming Turkey

Published 28.09.2019 00:00

Sources say Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) attempted to blame Turkey and Qatar for secret financial support to Indonesian opposition leader Prabowo Subianto to cover up their connections to Subianto's campaign.

Sources based in the UAE told Daily Sabah that the Emirate Embassy in Jakarta was behind propaganda against Turkey and Qatar, which purportedly financed Subianto. Subianto, a former general and businessman, who heads Great Indonesia Movement Party, ran an unsuccessful bid in April elections against incumbent Joko Widodo, his second in five years.

At a meeting with UAE Jakarta Embassy officials in April, Dr. Alwi Shihab, Indonesia's Special Representative for the Middle East and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, told them Gulf countries transferred money to the opposition party to support Subianto in his bid. Embassy officials in turn claimed the financial support might be the work of Turkey, Iran and Qatar and accused those three countries of supporting opposition parties in Indonesia in the past as well. In another meeting that month, Shihab told the embassy officials that they confirmed financing of the opposition from Turkey via Qatari National Bank's Jakarta branch and Widodo launched an investigation on the issue and would execute the "necessary procedure" against Turkey and Qatar after confirmation of official election results. UAE Embassy officials also held talks with Indonesian high-ranking officials and urged them to monitor and inspect "agencies" with Qatari, Turkish and Iranian origin, claiming they posed a risk for supporting "extremism."

However, sources say Salafists and Wahhabi movements tied with the UAE and Saudi Arabia supported Subianto in his last two election bids and pro-Subianto groups claiming fraud in elections are composed of Salafists and Wahhabis. They also point out that Saudi Arabia shifted its policy towards Widodo when the latter was ahead in opinion polls two days before the elections and hosted Widodo and his wife in Saudi Arabia in an umrah pilgrimage on April 15. "Subianto visited the United Arab Emirates first after the election results were confirmed," they say. They also highlight that the Muhammadiyah community of more than 50 million people, which makes up the main support group for Subianto, are Salafist. They also cite other people aligned with Saudi Arabia, including anti-Widodo Habib Rizieq Shihab, who has been in Saudi Arabia since an arrest warrant was issued against him in March 2017. "Saudi Arabia's Jakarta ambassador was also summoned back to Saudi Arabia for his activities against the Indonesian government in December 2018," they noted.

They concluded that Saudi Arabia and the UAE, despite supporting the opposition candidate in the elections, carried out propaganda against Turkey, to falsely place Turkey and Qatar in the role those states actually occupied.

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