Asia Minute: Indonesian Presidential Campaign Kicks Off

Jan 18, 2019

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence with Indonesian President Joko Widodo
Credit Office of the Vice President

While politicians in the United States continue to focus on the partial government shutdown, in some parts of the world attention is shifting to upcoming elections. That includes Southeast Asia . . . where one presidential contest appears headed for a rematch.

When Indonesian voters go to the polls in mid-April, they’ll choose between two familiar presidential candidates. Incumbent Joko Widodo, also known as “Jokowi” is facing off against the person he beat for the office five years ago — retired Army General Prabowo Subianto.

On Thursday, the campaign kicked off with its opening debate — broadcast live on 18 television and radio stations.

Prabowo accused Jokowi of discriminating against the poor when it comes to law enforcement — the incumbent called the charges “baseless accusations.”

Other themes included allegations of corruption within the government, and the state of the economy — which has averaged about five-percent growth during Jokowi’s administration. That’s impressive by international standards, but short of the 7 percent growth he promised in his last campaign.

This year’s election will also feature candidates for Indonesia’s House of Representatives — the first time those elections will be held at the same time.

Prabowo Subianto
Credit Prabowo Subianto / Wikimedia Commons

At this point, Jokowi holds a wide lead — from 12 to 24 percentage points in the latest polls.

But in the last campaign, Jokowi went from having a substantial lead in the pre-election polls to winning by a much narrower margin.

And this year, four more debates are still on the way.