Indonesia election: Who are the presidential candidates?

Ganjar Pranowo, Prabowo Subianto, Anies Baswedan hold hands as they attend a televised debate at the election commission headquarters in Jakarta, Indonesia, December 12, 2023.
Image caption,The candidates at a TV debate last year: (L-R) Ganjar Pranowo, Prabowo Subianto and Anies Baswedan

By Frances Mao and Kelly Ng

in Singapore

Indonesia, the third-largest democracy in the world, is voting on 14 February in just its sixth election since it emerged from a military dictatorship in the 1990s.

It’s a three-way race for the top job, between current Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto and two former governors, Anies Baswedan and Ganjar Pranowo.

One of them will succeed President Joko Widodo, popularly known as Jokowi, who has served two full terms.

Mr Widodo remains hugely popular but his legacy has been tainted by accusations that he’s sought to retain political influence through his eldest son, who is running alongside Mr Prabowo, a military commander under the Suharto regime.

It has prompted fears that Indonesia is in danger of sliding back towards its authoritarian past.

The outcome of the election will also have an effect far beyond Indonesia, with the winner having to contend with the growing US-China rivalry in the Indo-Pacific region.

Prabowo Subianto, Advanced Indonesia Coalition

Prabowo Subianto (left) and Gibran Raka
Image caption,Prabowo Subianto has the outgoing PM’s eldest son Gibran Raka (right) as his running mate

The frontrunner to be Indonesia’s next president has tried desperately to soften his strongman image but to some voters he is still associated with abuses committed during General Suharto’s dictatorship.

The 72-year-old Mr Prabowo was a military general who married one of General Suharto’s daughters. He came from a wealthy political family but the first half of his career was dedicated to the army.

During his time as a leading officer in Suharto’s regime, he’s accused of ordering his unit to abduct and torture dozens of democracy activists.

He was discharged following this scandal and went into self-imposed exile in Jordan in the 2000s.

But he returned to Indonesia a few years later, building up his wealth in various businesses before making the jump to politics.

He’s had the money and connections to run for president two times before – losing both times to Mr Widodo.

But in the last term, Mr Widodo brought him into his cabinet as defence minister – and this is now the closest Mr Prabowo has ever been to the top job. His running mate is Mr Widodo’s eldest son Gibran Rakabuming Raka.

Though Mr Widodo has not appeared at Mr Prabowo’s campaign events, he is seen as having tacitly endorsed the Prabowo-Gibran ticket.

A possible victory for Mr Prabowo is a frightening concept for freedom fighters. They fear a Suharto-era general back at the helm of Indonesian government will drag the country back into a dark period.

Anies Baswedan, Coalition of Change for Unity (KPP)

Anies Baswedan
Image caption,Anies Baswedan has portrayed himself as an alternative to the two other candidates

From languishing at the bottom of opinion surveys, Anies Baswedan is now polling second after he criticised Jokowi’s plan to move the capital from Jakarta to a new city that is being built on Borneo island.

The former Jakarta governor instead favours the development of existing cities to boost equitable growth instead of developing a new capital from scratch.

Mr Anies, 54, has portrayed himself as the alternative to the two other candidates who are expected to continue most of Mr Widodo’s policies if elected.

He has repeatedly claimed democracy has declined under Mr Widodo and pledged to be “consistent in keeping the country away from the practices of feudalism and nepotism”.

Mr Anies and his running mate Muhaimin Iskandar will be contesting this year’s elections under the banner of the Islamic-leaning Coalition of Change for Unity. Their narrative for change has received support from conservative Islamic groups in the world’s largest Muslim-majority country.

The pair has pledged to create 15 million jobs, offer easier access to credit for prospective home buyers and to upgrade infrastructure in Indonesia’s second-tier cities, if elected.

Born into a family of academics, Mr Anies spent the earlier years of his career lecturing economics at Paramadina University, before entering politics in 2013, He was appointed education and culture minister after Mr Widodo’s first victory but he has been more vocal in criticising the president after being removed in a cabinet reshuffle.

In 2017, he won the election to become Jakarta’s governor in a divisive vote that exposed religious and ethnic tensions in the Indonesian capital. His tenure saw a push for urban infrastructure in the city, but some feel he has not done enough to address perennial issues like air pollution and traffic congestion.

Ganjar Pranowo, Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P)

Ganjar Pranowo
Image caption,Ganjar Pranowo was seen as Mr Widodo’s shoo-in successor

The governor of one of Indonesia’s largest provinces presents himself as a humble man of the people.

There’s no political dynasty or family wealth behind his rise – only a skill to connect with people on a populist agenda: it’s won him two terms in Central Java.

But he’s facing long odds in the national election without the backing of the enormously popular Mr Widodo – who was himself backed by the PDI-P for the last two elections.

In the early days of the campaign, he was seen as Mr Widodo’s shoo-in successor and analysts had him pegged as the frontrunner. But Mr Widodo has since distanced himself from his party’s campaign.

Mr Ganjar has been left to rely on his populist appeal and grassroots campaign- selling policies such as millions of jobs, social welfare expansion and making university more accessible.

His campaign trail has focused on poorer areas across Indonesia’s islands – starting in Papua in the far east and moving across the archipelago, staying in humble villagers’ homes.

The silver-haired politician had been riding high as governor until he expressed opposition to Israel’s participation in the Under-20 Fifa World Cup which was to be held in his province. Fifa then announced it was pulling the tournament from the country – prompting a backlash from football fans against Mr Ganjar.

His running mate is Mohammad Mahfud, Indonesia’s former security minister, who was also a former chief justice of the Constitutional Court.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *