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Zubaidah Nazeer
Tuesday, Jul 8, 2014

Asia

Will Prabowo reunite with ex-wife?

The Straits Times | Zubaidah Nazeer | Tuesday, Jul 8, 2014

Mr Prabowo and Ms Siti Hediati Suharto married in 1983 but broke up 15 years later. Her appearance on the campaign trail has ignited excitement over the prospect of a reunion.

"Will they or won't they?"

That's the question swirling in cafes, food stalls and hair salons, as Indonesians wonder whether presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto and former wife Siti Hediati "Titiek" Suharto will remarry.

The suspense has reached the dizzying heights usually associated with sinetron, the Indonesian soap operas. Ms Siti Hediati's appearance on the campaign trail got tongues wagging and excited many of Mr Prabowo's supporters with the prospect of a reunion. "He is a firm and authoritative man," she told a Bali rally on June 28.

"I have been with him throughout his career and I know he is a dedicated commander to his men whom he cares deeply about," Ms Siti Hediati, 55, the fourth child of the late president Suharto, told supporters at a Jakarta rally earlier.

"Reconcile! Reconcile!" the crowd responded.

But she poured cold water on the hot topic, telling reporters: "We're like friends, or brother and sister. Nothing more."

As campaigning drew to a close, however, even party insiders have been hoping for a reunion, to boost Mr Prabowo's political chances, if not for love.

Whether or not they will get back together, the speculation about a revived romance has provided a diversion from the daily grind of campaigning and helped to soften Mr Prabowo's "hard man" image, said campaign team adviser Eggi Sudjana.

The pair married in 1983, when Mr Prabowo was a rising military star who later became one of Mr Suharto's most trusted generals. But they broke up 15 years later, soon after Mr Suharto's downfall.

Mr Prabowo was kicked out of the Suharto household for what was thought to be his betrayal of the former leader for not quashing a student movement that led to the strongman's downfall.

Some saw Mr Prabowo's visit to Mr Suharto's grave a month ago, accompanied by his former wife, as an indication of warming ties.

Ms Siti Hediati, a parliamentarian for Golkar, one of seven parties in the coalition supporting Mr Prabowo, has also been seen attending at least two of the five debates with the couple's only son, Paris-based fashion designer Ragowo Hedi Prasetyo, 30.

Mr Eggi said: "They never really divorced. It was a political situation that forced Mr Prabowo out of the household. Their relations are good and we are optimistic they will reconcile."

Prabowo supporter Erna Wurianti, a factory worker, said: "We want to see our president with a First Lady. In our culture, a president without a First Lady is not complete."

Speculation got so rife it sparked a Twitter frenzy, with many predicting a marriage ceremony this weekend, to be broadcast live.

There has been nothing official yet, but national campaign chief Mahfud MD set a 56 per cent probability there will be a reunion before the election, and Mr Prabowo's younger brother Hashim Djojohadikusumo said he was praying for it.

Mr Ragowo would only say: "Everything lies in God's hands."


This article was first published on JULY 6, 2014.
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