Published: Sun, August 12, 2018
Worldwide | By Jermaine Blake

Indonesian Presidential Candidacies are Now Official

Indonesian Presidential Candidacies are Now Official

Indonesia's 2019 presidential race took shape yesterday with incumbent Joko Widodo choosing to run alongside a conservative Islamic cleric against controversial ex-general Prabowo Subianto.

Joko Widodo said that he chose 75-year-old Ma'ruf for his experience as a prominent cleric and lawmaker.

Indonesia, the world's third-largest democracy and biggest Muslim-majority country, goes to the polls in April.

Razor wire, along with dozens of police and secret service officers, held back jubilant crowds, as President "Jokowi" officially registered as a candidate for re-election.

"Democracy is not a war, democracy is not a hostility, but a contest of ideas, track record of achievement", said Widodo after his registration at the commission office.

According to the Jakarta Post, Ma'ruf now chairs the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), Indonesia's highest Muslim clerical body that oversees all registered Muslim organisations such as the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), Muhammadiyah and the Islamic Union (Persis).

The selection of Amin further entrenches the mixing of religion and politics in Indonesia, he said, but provides a "very strong shield against identity-politics attacks aimed at Jokowi, who is often accused by the opposition of being insufficiently Muslim and too pro-minority".

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Known for his disparaging views towards certain minorities, including Indonesia's LGBT community, Amin was instrumental in the jailing of Jakarta's former Christian governor Basuki "Ahok" Purnama in 2017 by declaring he had committed blasphemy.

The two will be challenged by former general Prabowo Subianto and his vice presidential candidate pick, the deputy governor of Jakarta, Sandiaga Uno.

A longtime commander in Indonesia's "Kopassus" special forces, Subianto was discharged from the military in 1998 after Kopassus soldiers tortured activists who opposed dictator Suharto.

"Gerindra, PKS and PAN have entrusted me and Sandiaga Uno to be their presidential and vice-presidential candidates", Prabowo said at his home in southern Jakarta, referring to his party and its coalition partners. "They want to struggle for our beloved nation", he said.

Political analyst Arya Fernandes, of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, told The Straits Times that Jokowi's fielding of Ma'ruf shows the president's willingness to compromise and accommodate interests of various political parties.

Prabowo testily refused to accept the election results and withdrew just hours before the announcement of official results.

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