Indonesia set for high-stakes campaign

The presidential race in Indonesia is expected to start this weekend with both President Joko Widodo (pictured) and Islamist former general Prabowo Subianto due to start campaigning ahead of April 17’s vote.

As the two sides eye Indonesia’s 187.1 million voters, cracks have appeared in the base of “Jokowi”, as he is popularly known, with former supporters accusing the president of selling out to win ultra-conservative support.

And there are questions about how reliable the electoral register is.

The General Elections Commission (KPU) has reportedly wiped more than 670,000 voters from the lists after receiving complaints about 2.9 million duplicate names on its registry.

It is the first vote where almost 50 per cent of the voters are younger than 36 and the first time that the electorate will be choosing their president and parliamentarians on the same day.

Indonesia’s fragmented electoral system has prevented any single party from dominating power after the fall of the right-wing dictator Suharto in 1998.

Since taking office in 2014, Jokowi has struggled to deliver on his promise of 7-per-cent growth when he originally defeated Prabowo, although growth has remained at an impressive 5 per cent each year since he took office.

Jokowi and his Islamic cleric running mate Ma’ruf Amin are backed by the nine-party Golkar alliance led by the Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle, while Prabowo and Jakarta’s deputy governor, Sandiaga Uno, are backed by the Great Indonesia Movement Party or Gerindra.

Ma’ruf’s selection is seen as a reaction to the Muslim-majority country’s move away from its pluralistic brand of Islam and secular tradition and the rise of religious fundamentalism.

Amid the global economic uncertainty, the Indonesian rupiah has depreciated to its lowest level since the 1998 financial crisis. It has fallen about 9 per cent against the US dollar this year, making it the second-worst performing Asian currency after the Indian rupee.

Prabowo will be hoping to convert economic uncertainty into votes.

With over 100 million Indonesian smartphone users, social media is expected to be a focal point for Jokowi and Prabowo as they attempt to reach the approximately 70 million first-time voters.

Jokowi dominates Twitter with 10.2 million followers, compared to Subianto’s 3.17 million.

Joko Widodo faces a tough test. Picture credit: Wikimedia