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Analysis, Politics

Will Indonesia’s next election be another two horse race?

With Indonesia due to hold presidential elections in 2019, ANN looks at the two main candidates ahead of the vote.


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Updated: March 20, 2018

The time has come for Indonesians to head for the polls, with gubernatorial and mayoral elections to be held later this year and the presidential election to be held next year.

The last general election, held in 2014, proved to be a close, bitterly fought battle between former military man Prabowo Subianto and then Jakarta governor Joko Widodo.

Although the presidential elections are still a year away, some are speculating that the 2019 election will be another tight race between Prabowo and Jokowi. Here is a quick look at the two likely contenders for the role.

Joko Widodo

Known around the country as “Jokowi” Indonesia’s current President was born in Solo in the country’s most densely populated island of Java. Unlike the country’s past leaders who came from military or political backgrounds, Widodo began life as the son of a carpenter, working as a furniture exporter before making the transition to politics.

In 2005, Jokowi was elected Mayor of Solo and quickly rose to prominence due to his ability to resolve difficult issues such as floods, dirty streets and slums, according to The Straits Times. From there, he became governor of Jakarta in 2012 and in 2014, he ran for president.

The 2014 election saw him square off against former general Prabowo Subianto, his biggest competition. Central to Jokowi’s campaign was the promise to tackle corruption, which remains a pressing issue in Indonesia. His election promises included investment in education, infrastructure and GDP growth of about 7 per cent.

Jokowi’s popularity ahead of the election took a hit when rumours circulated that he was a closet Christian, prompting Widodo to make a last-minute trip to Mecca to dispel concerns.

Still, his campaign promises evidently resonated with voters and he emerged victorious.

He has focused on improving access to healthcare and infrastructure, but has failed to deliver on his promise to boost economic growth to seven per cent, according to Bloomberg.

Prabowo Subianto

Although he has yet to formally announce his plan to run against Jokowi in the 2019 election, main opposition Gerindra Party leader Prabowo Subianto is viewed by many as a likely opponent for the current president.

Prabowo’s start in life was in many was the opposite of Jokowi’s. The ex-army man is Indonesian blue blood, born into an elite family whose lineage can be traced back to Java’s sultans, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

He served in the army for more than 20 years, rising quickly up the ranks and eventually becoming a general. However, his successful military career was marred by allegations of human rights abuses and in 1998, he was sacked by a military commission.

In 2004, Prabowo set up his own political party, Gerindra, after being rejected as a candidate from Golkar.

Despite his privileged upbringing as a member of one of Indonesia’s richest families, Prabowo has attempted to position himself as a man of the people, promising, among other things, to reduce inequality between the rich and poor and tackle corruption.

He narrowly lost to Jokowi in the country’s closest ever election.



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Nadia Chevroulet
About the Author: Nadia is an Associate Editor at Asia News Network.

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