Indonesia’s presidential election Wednesday pits incumbent Joko Widodo against former special forces Gen. Prabowo Subianto in a repeat of the 2014 contest. Widodo, a furniture exporter and heavy metal fan who had a meteoric rise in Indonesian politics, chose a conservative Muslim cleric as his vice presidential candidate. Subianto’s running mate is a self-made tycoon.
A look at the presidential and vice presidential candidates:
Usually known as Jokowi, Widodo’s political career began in the central Javanese city of Solo and hit the big time when he became governor of Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital, in 2012. A down-to-earth style and reputation for clean governance helped propel him to the presidency in 2014.
Widodo, 57, was likened to Barack Obama, and progressive voters hoped that as the first Indonesian president from outside the Jakarta elite he would address a catalog of major human rights abuses in the country. But while in office, he has been unwilling to press for accountability that threatens powerful institutions such as the military. Instead he has emphasized nationalism while also fending off attacks that he is insufficiently Muslim.
Widodo’s signature policy has been improving Indonesia’s poor infrastructure. He also continued the poverty alleviation policies of his predecessor.
One of the most important religious figures in Muslim-majority Indonesia, Amin was selected as Widodo’s running mate to shore up his support among pious Muslims. He was chairman of Majelis Ulama Indonesia, the country’s council of Islamic leaders, and supreme leader of Nahdlatul Ulama, the world’s largest Muslim organization. An avuncular, almost Yoda-like appearance belies Amin’s reactionary beliefs.
Amin, 76, has been a vocal supporter and drafter of fatwas against religious minorities and LGBT people. Human Rights Watch says the fatwas, or edicts, have legitimized increasingly hateful rhetoric by government officials against LGBT people, and in some cases fueled deadly violence by Islamic militants against religious minorities.
Subianto, a former special forces general who was dismissed from the military in 1998, is making his second run at the presidency after narrowly losing to Widodo in 2014. A strident nationalist, he has run a fear-based campaign, highlighting what he sees as Indonesia’s weakness and the risk of exploitation by foreign powers or disintegration.
Subianto, 67, has sometimes highlighted a novel about a future world war that briefly mentions Indonesia as part of the basis for those fears. He was a star officer during the Suharto era and married the dictator’s daughter. After Suharto was forced from office by social and economic chaos in 1998, Subianto was dismissed from the military. Soldiers under his command had kidnapped student activists, some of whom remain missing.
A self-made tycoon and deputy governor of Jakarta, Uno — commonly known as Sandi — has reportedly spent millions of his own money on the campaign. Articulate and youthful looking at 49, he has been more active on the campaign trail than his running mate and has been the ticket’s way of appealing to the burgeoning number of young voters.
Nearly a decade ago, Uno was profiled by CNN as an inspirational entrepreneur from humble roots who claimed to have the ear of then Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. His role in the 2019 campaign has raised his profile nationally and he is already talked about as a possible 2024 presidential candidate.
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