FRIDAY, March 01, 2024

Who will become new president of Indonesia?

Who will become new president of Indonesia?

Indonesians will have a choice between three candidates when they head to the polls on Feb. 14 to choose the country's next leader

As Indonesia heads into next week's presidential election, former Central Java governor Ganjar Pranowo will go head-to-head with the other candidates Prabowo Subianto and Anies Baswedan in the race to the top.

As a lawmaker and governor, Ganjar has spent 20 years in public service as a member of the Indonesia Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), the country’s largest political party.

Ganjar Pranowo

Pranowo and his running mate, coordinating security affairs minister Mahfud MD, have pledged to create 17 million new jobs, expand social welfare, strengthen anti-corruption efforts if elected, and are targeting 7% growth in Southeast Asia's largest economy.

Political communication scholars have noted that Pranowo is the only political figure with a down-to-earth leadership style that is similar to Jokowi's.

But after Prabowo picked Jokowi's son Gibran Rakabuming Raka as his running mate, the current president has been fervent in his support and endorsement of the retired general and third-time candidate to take office instead.

Last March, Ganjar sparked a public outcry after he expressed his strong opposition to Israel participating in the FIFA U-20 World Cup that was to be held in Indonesia, citing his support for Palestinian statehood.

FIFA later announced its decision to remove Indonesia as host and stripped it of the right to stage the tournament.

Anies Baswedan, a former education minister and governor of Jakarta, will be one of the three candidates Indonesian voters can choose at the upcoming presidential election on February 14.

Born in 1969, Anies was a political analyst, university rector and Fulbright scholar with a PhD in public policy from Northern Illinois University. He is widely admired for his scholarly background and oratory skills.

Campaign pledges to address what he calls an erosion of democratic values have helped pull the former governor of the nation's capital into second place, according to some opinion surveys.

Anies Baswedan

But most polls have Anies neck-and-neck with the ruling party candidate, Ganjar Pranowo, and well behind the leading candidate, Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto.

Anies, who is from a middle-class background in Yogyakarta, a city in Java, began his political path in 2013 where he participated in the presidential candidate convention held by the Democratic Party, led then by former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

He then joined as an advisor for the campaign team of Joko Widodo who was running for Indonesia’s 2014 presidential election, and was later appointed as Education Minister after Widodo won the election. But in just two years, Widodo replaced him in 2016 in a major reshuffle of his cabinet.

Anies made his way back onto the political stage by running for governor of Jakarta in 2017, with the support of Widodo’s contender in the last presidential election, Prabowo Subianto.

His rise in 2017 was controversial as he accepted the endorsement of hardline Islamist groups that had agitated his opponent and then-Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama - an ethnic Chinese Christian - who was later jailed for insulting Islam.

Anies, who espouses moderate Islam, was accused of doing little to mend widening religious and communal rifts, which he has refused.

In this presidential election, Anies' running mate is Muhaimin Iskandar - better known as Cak Imin.

The 57-year-old is head of the National Awakening Party (PKB) and has served as deputy speaker of the People's Representative Council since 2019, and labour minister from 2009-2014. He is a relative of Abdurrahman Wahid, or Gus Dur, a well-respected former president and religious leader.

The election in the world's third-largest democracy sees leading candidate Prabowo Subianto, the defence minister and former general, facing off against former provincial governors Ganjar Pranowo and Anies Baswedan.

Prabowo, a former special forces commander, has held a strong lead in opinion polls for the Feb. 14 election, but his military modernisation drive drew flak in a second televised face-off focused on security and geopolitics.

Born into an elite family, Prabowo's father, Sumitro Djojohadikusumo, was one of the country's most respected economic planners in former President Suharto's cabinet.

Prabowo Subianto and Gibran Rakabuming Raka

Prabowo entered the Indonesian military in 1970. But his stellar military career, during which he rose through the ranks with remarkable speed, unravelled quickly after Suharto's fall.

In 1998, he was discharged for misinterpreting orders in the abduction of anti-Suharto activists and was accused of instigating riots that killed hundreds of people just before Suharto's downfall.

Dismissed from the army soon after, shunned by the Jakarta elite and going into self-exile in Jordan for some years, Prabowo became one of Indonesia's most reviled men. He denies any wrongdoing and was never charged.

Still, in just over a decade, he managed a striking transformation, becoming a successful businessman and the popular head of a political party. He ran as a vice-president candidate with one of his family rival's daughter Megawati Sukarno Putri in 2009, but the pair were defeated by Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

In 2014, the former general ran for president, though losing to Joko Widodo.

In 2019, he tried his presidential candidate luck for a second time, with businessman and ex-vice governor, Sandiaga Uno, as his running mate. The pair went head-to-head with incumbent president Widodo and head of the national ulema council, Ma'ruf Amin.

This year, Prabowo's running mate is Widodo's eldest son Gibran Rakabuming Raka. In late 2023, the Constitutional Court, headed by Jokowi's brother-in-law, tweaked election eligibility criteria, allowing the president's son to run for vice president on Prabowo's ticket.

The decision sparked fears about a return to the nepotism and patronage politics that characterised the decades-long rule of former president Suharto.