Indonesian presidential candidates register for next year’s elections as supporters cheer

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Thousands of noisy, flag-waving political supporters created a celebratory atmosphere outside Indonesia’s election commission Thursday as candidates started registering for next year’s elections in the world’s third-largest democracy.

More than 2,400 police were deployed around the General Election Commission compound and roads were blocked around the building in Jakarta where traffic was snarled as the presidential and vice presidential candidates arrived.

Anies Baswedan, an opposition candidate and former Jakarta governor, was the first to register for the presidential race, alongside his running mate, Muhaimin Iskandar, the chairman of the National Awakening Party or PKB.

Ganjar Pranowo, the ruling party’s candidate and former Central Java governor, registered with his running mate, Muhammad Mahfud, the current top security minister.

The election to succeed President Joko Widodo, who is serving his second and final term, is shaping up as a three-way race.

Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto, who lost to Widodo in the last two presidential elections, is expected to run but it’s not clear when he will register as he hasn’t announced his running mate.

The deadline for candidates to register for the legislative and presidential elections on Feb. 14, 2024, is next Wednesday.

Opinion polls forecast a close race between Subianto and Pranowo while Baswedan is consistently in third place.

Baswedan, 54, was education and culture minister before Widodo removed him from the cabinet in 2016.

He was known as a progressive Muslim intellectual but the religious identity politics in the 2017 election for Jakarta governor were seen as distancing him from moderate Muslims. His choice of Iskandar is seen as an attempt to rebuild that support.

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Iskandar’s PKB party has strong ties with Indonesia’s largest Islamic organization, Nahdlatul Ulama, which boasts over 45 million members.

Some of Baswedan’s supporters who gathered at the election commission building were from the groups that held mass protests in 2016 against Jakarta’s ethnic Chinese Christian governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, who was imprisoned for blasphemy after quoting the Quran in a speech. Anies galvanized street protests of hundreds of thousands and capitalized on the controversy in his successful run for governor.

The nationalist party Nasdem has endorsed him in the upcoming presidential election and praised his achievements in promoting religious and ethnic tolerance during his term as governor.

Pranowo, 54, was a national legislator for the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle or PDIP for 10 years before elected in 2013 for the first of his two terms as Central Java governor.

Widodo praised Pranowo as a leader who is close to the people and “always goes down to the grassroots and is very ideological.”

Pranowo has faced criticism and backlash from soccer fans after FIFA earlier this year stripped Indonesia of its right to host the Under-20 World Cup.

He was among those who had voiced opposition to Israel’s participation in the tournament. Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation and does not have diplomatic relations with Israel.

Subianto, 72, has focused his ultra-nationalistic campaign on what he sees as Indonesia’s weakness in the world relative to its vast land area rich in natural resources and a population of more than 270 million people.

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A longtime commander in Indonesia’s Kopassus special forces, Subianto was discharged from the military in 1998 after Kopassus soldiers tortured activists who opposed dictator Suharto, his father-in-law.

He self-exiled to Jordan before returning and founding the Gerindra Party in early 2008.

In the past he worked closely with hardline Islamists to undermine his opponents, but lost to Widodo in 2014 and 2019 elections which were marred by dirty campaigning and wild internet rumors.

Subianto testily refused to accept both election results, but decided to join Widodo’s Cabinet after Widodo offered him the defense minister position in a bid for unity.


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