JAKARTA — Two popular ex-governors kicked off the race on Thursday (Oct 19) to succeed Indonesian President Joko Widodo, registering as candidates for the February election and promising more jobs and better public services in the world’s third-largest democracy.
Nearly 205 million of Indonesia’s more than 270 million people will vote on Feb 14 to decide who will lead the resource-rich country with an economy of more than US$1 trillion (S$1.38 trillion), and take on an ambitious drive to boost foreign investment, develop downstream industries and move away from fossil fuels.
The presidential race is expected to be dominated by three men — Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto, 72, and popular former governors Ganjar Pranowo and Anies Baswedan, both 54.
Thousands of supporters gathered in central Jakarta, cheering and waving party flags as Mr Anies and his running mate were the first to arrive in an open-roofed jeep at the election commission to register.
“We are bringing the idea of change, changes that will be felt by families in Indonesia,” Mr Anies, a former Jakarta governor, said after signing registration documents and presenting his policy platform to the poll body.
He promised to lower the cost of staple foods, improve welfare for farmers and fishermen, and offer better education and healthcare access.
Mr Anies, who is trailing in opinion polls, is running with Mr Muhaimin Iskandar, known as Cak Imin, head of the country’s biggest Islamic party, PKB (Partai Kebangkitan Bangsa).
The party has ties with Nahdlatul Ulama, a moderate Islamic organisation of roughly 40 million members.
Later on Thursday, ruling party candidate Ganjar and his running mate, respected security minister Mahfud MD, submitted their credentials to the agency while hundreds of supporters cheered outside, many of them clad in red, the colour of Mr Ganjar’s PDI-P (Partai Demokrasi Indonesia Perjuangan) party.
Candidates have a seven-day window to join the five-yearly contest.
Mr Ganjar’s election manifesto, reviewed by Reuters, showed promises to speed up construction of the new capital city, create 17 million new jobs and accelerate reforestation. He also aims to expand a social welfare programme to 15 million families from 10 million, and strengthen the country’s anti-graft agency, among other promises.
He told media he would continue the programmes of the current administration if elected.
Opinion polls show Mr Ganjar neck-and-neck with Mr Prabowo, who is making a third run at the presidency having lost to Mr Jokowi, as the president is popularly known, in 2014 and 2019.
Candidates are also this week confirming their running mates for the election, ending months of speculation and political manoeuvring aimed at shoring up alliances and making inroads into new voter territory.
Former special forces commander Prabowo has yet to announce his running mate, an issue that has dominated headlines in recent days amid speculation he will be joined by the president’s 36-year-old son, Gibran Rakabuming Raka.
Mr Gibran’s potential run would be controversial after outrage this week over a ruling by the Constitutional Court that a minimum age of 40 need not apply to candidates if they have won a regional election.
Mr Jokowi said this week he had no involvement in presidential candidates, but political insiders have said the outgoing leader is seeking to retain influence and has been covertly marshalling support for Mr Prabowo, having earlier appeared to have backed Mr Ganjar, the candidate of his PDI-P party. REUTERS