Guest post by - Prof. Ivan Sascha Sheehan is the associate dean of the College of Public Affairs and past executive director of the School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Baltimore. Opinions expressed are his own. Follow him on X @ProfSheehan
Indonesia’s Minister of Defense and presidential candidate, Prabowo Subianto, announced a few days ago that he has selected current President Joko (popularly known as Jokowi) Widodo’s eldest son to be his running mate in the upcoming presidential election scheduled for early next year.
Subianto declared the selection outside his residence in Jakarta, stating, “By consensus, everyone agrees to support Prabowo Subianto as the presidential candidate and Gibran Rakabuming Raka as the vice-presidential candidate.” Representatives from his party coalition, known as Advanced Indonesia, stood with him as he made the announcement. Historically affiliated with his father’s Democratic Party of Indonesia Struggle (PDI-P), Raka is joining the ticket as a cross-over candidate.
The choice of Raka, a 36-year-old currently serving as the mayor of Surakarta city, is an interesting move in Indonesian politics. Although twice a candidate for President on the PDI-P ticket, Jokowi has so far refused to endorse his party’s candidate, Ganjar Pranowo. Most interpret Prabowo’s decision to put the president’s son on the ticket as an indication of support by the current occupant of the State House.
Jokowi has nevertheless been clear that he does not wish to dominate the nation’s political scene, stressing that the choice of the country’s next leader and vice-president should be determined by the people. The PDI-P, by contrast, has put forward Pranowo, the former governor of Central Java, as their presidential candidate – with Pranowo selecting Chief Security Minister Mohammad Mahfud Mahmodin (commonly referred to as Mahfud MD)as his running mate. A distant third place contender is former Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan, who enjoys favor among conservative Muslims and Islamist factions in the predominantly Muslim country.
With more than 204 million eligible voters expected to participate, the election is set for February 14. The winner will succeed Jokowi, who has served two terms of office since his initial election in 2014. As declared by the elections commission, the newly elected president will be inaugurated in October of 2024.
Prabowo has focused his campaign on unity, a theme most recently illustrated by the naming of Raka as his running mate. But the emphasis on unity is also reflected in the history between the two elder statesmen. Prabowo ran as an opposition candidate against President Jokowi in 2014 and 2019. The two then joined forces with Prabowo serving as Minister of Defense. In many countries, positioning a former opposition candidate in charge of military affairs would be a grave mistake, but Jokowi’s judgement proved to be correct. Prabowo has capably served the president and the Indonesian people by safeguarding democratic rule.
As a candidate for the highest office, Prabowo’s campaign has focused on making sure that no Indonesia Is left behind. Among his declared strategic initiatives are irrigation projects to bring potable water to families in remote regions, the construction of schools and hospitals, incentives to promote economic development, and poverty eradication. Toward these ends, offering every child a free meal at school and eliminating tuberculosis are just some of the commitments Prabowo has made.
Prabowo has also emphasized the importance of corruption-free government, promising strict measures against all forms of graft. Aiming for a more progressive and inclusive Indonesia, he has also pledged to promote gender equality and increase women’s participation in politics.
The coming weeks will be decisive for the outcome of Indonesia’s election. Every analyst predicts that the first round will be a hard fought one, with Prabowo and Ganjar making it to the second and decisive round.
Whether President Jokowi will continue to refrain from formally endorsing any of the candidates is yet to be determined. However, the fact that his son is the running mate of a man who loyally served as his Minister of Defense may be the best indication of who the overwhelmingly popular head of state will cast his ballot for in the next election.
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