The third free presidential election in the Asian giant has just come to an end. According to exit polls (the results won’t be known until July 22nd), the leader of the Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P) should have the edge. Here is an introduction to that man.
The presidential election in Indonesia has just ended, and both candidates are already claiming victory. They are basing their claims on the exit polls, because the official results will not be released until July 22nd. There is, therefore, a stalemate between Joko Widodo (called “Jokowi”) and Prabowo Subianto. The former was decidedly ahead in the polls, but his competitor’s spectacular comeback has made the verdict very uncertain. Jokowi should have maintained a small but certain margin of victory, and will probably lead his Democratic Party-Struggle to power for the next five years. Since the end of Suharto’s autocratic regime in 1998, this is the third free presidential election. Therefore, parliamentary democracy seems consolidated, which has simultaneously helped economic growth in Indonesia, a significant social development and more suitable for the country’s dimensions in the international scene. This direction was impeded during the long years of the New Order. The military coup in 1967 slammed on the breaks of Indonesia’s progress, limiting it to levels far from the Asian Tigers’, and was especially useful for its ideological affiliation and security in Southeast Asia.
Of the political system, Subianto is the most qualified heir, and the candidate with the best chance of bringing the country back to the nostalgia of authoritarian power. He is an ex-general, fully decorated among the military elite who not only secured the preceding regime but also managed it. He is remembered for human rights violations and the repression of the Chinese minority. When pressed about this behavior during his election campaign, he hid behind the classic litany of only following orders. He has a powerful family at his back: his wife is Suharto’s daughter and his brother is a millionaire who financed his campaign. He is supported by conservatives, part of the clergy (who are able to influence electoral decisions in the biggest Muslim nation in the world), representatives of the bureaucracy, state-owned enterprises, and obviously the military. At the head of the Greater Indonesia Movement, he promises to accentuate nationalism, to increase presidential power, to consolidate the state’s hold on the islands’ raw materials. It’s a return to the past, masked by innovation, reform, balance, and managed with paternalism.
The other candidate has a different history and vision. His objectives are not alternative—escaping from underdevelopment, defeating the plague of corruption, and using resources for transformation, not export—but his methods are different. Jokowi supports the dynamism of small businesses and the opening of public capital to international capital. He prefers microcredit and competition; he uses technology to defeat legislative elephantitis; he’s loyal to Indonesia’s commitment to guarantee peace and stability. His excellent pedigree appeals to young people, intellectuals, and entrepreneurs that don’t fear competition. He is the son of a furniture seller, therefore light-years away from the capital’s political circles. He was elected mayor of Solo (a city on the island of Java) and worked hard, resolving problems, and establishing himself as an incorruptible administrator very in tune with the people’s needs, not arrogant in the least when it came to relationships with the electoral college. He was then projected to Jakarta, where he became governor, and then became a candidate for the highest office. If he is confirmed victor, he will take the reigns of a country with 250 million inhabitants composed of 17,00 islands, immersed in a sea of petroleum, a political giant that’s starting to give economic power to its imposingness. It was the mandate of all presidents, but it was never fully brought to term.
Published on Europa