Indonesia begins election season marked by Widodo farewell

Jakarta, Oct 19 (EFE).- Indonesia began its electoral season Thursday with the opening of registration for candidates for February’s presidential elections, marked by the farewell of Joko Widodo and the controversy over his possible strategies to maintain his influence.

Candidates for the presidency and vice presidency of the world’s third largest democracy can register from Thursday until Nov. 25, while the campaign will run between Nov. 28 and Feb. 10, with elections scheduled for Feb. 14.

Widodo, who has been president for two five-year terms after winning the 2014 and 2019 elections, cannot seek a third due to constitutional impediment. His absence and endorsements, as well as the possibility that his son Ganjar Rakabuming aspires to the vice presidency, are key in the electoral process.

The Constitutional Court of Indonesia agreed Monday to lower the minimum age from 40 to 35 years so candidates can run for president or vice president if they have political experience, which directly benefits 35-year-old Ganjar. He’s the mayor of the city of Surakarta since 2021 and is thought to partner Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto in the race.

This has sparked criticism from NGOs and activists in Indonesia, who see the court decision as a ruse for the president – known as Jokowi, and the first Indonesian civilian leader not to come from a prominent political family – to form a dynasty and indirectly retain power.

Prabowo, 72, who lost to Jokowi in the last two elections, has not yet presented his candidacy or revealed who would be his vice president.

The minister, supported by former president Megawati Sukarnoputri, was the son-in-law of dictator Suharto and was accused of human rights violations as head of the special forces, which earned him a ban on entering the United States for years.

The only one to present his candidacy for the presidency so far before the Jakarta Electoral Commission has been 54-year-old Anies Baswedan, third in the running and who polls say has the least support among Indonesians. He was the governor of the capital between 2017 and 2022, which Jokowi also once held.

The independent Anies will ally with Muhaimin Iskandar, a vice presidential candidate with links to the Islamic organization Nahdlatul Ulama, the largest in Indonesia, the country with the most Muslims in the world.

The last expected presidential candidate, who has not yet submitted his nomination, is the governor of Central Java, Ganjar Pranowo, candidate of the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, the second favorite in the polls after Prabowo Subianto.

Ganjar became embroiled in controversy earlier this year by banning the Israeli national team from participating in the FIFA U-20 World Cup in his province.

Indonesia, with 273 million inhabitants, is the leading economy in Southeast Asia and has seen its global profile raised under Jokowi’s mandate, especially after his applauded leadership of the G20 last year. EFE


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