World

A defense minister and 2 former governors vie for Indonesia’s presidency

JAKARTA, Indonesia — (AP) — Indonesians on Wednesday will elect the successor to popular President Joko Widodo, who is serving his second and final term.

It is a three-way race for the presidency among current Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto and two former provincial governors, Anies Baswedan and Ganjar Pranowo.

Subianto, who is widely seen as the front-runner, has picked Widodo’s eldest son, Gibran Rakabuming Raka, as his running mate.

About 205 million people are eligible to vote in the world's third-largest democracy and the most populous Muslim-majority nation.

Here is some information about the candidates and their running mates.

PRABOWO SUBIANTO

Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto is the only candidate with links to the 1967-98 Suharto dictatorship, when he was a lieutenant general.

A longtime commander in the Kopassus special forces, he was dishonorably discharged in 1998 after Kopassus soldiers kidnapped and tortured political opponents of Suharto, his then-father-in-law. Of 22 activists kidnapped that year, 13 remain missing. Subianto never faced trial, although several of his men were tried and convicted.

He went into self-exile in Jordan for several years before returning and founding the Gerindra Party in early 2008. He ran for the presidency twice, losing to current President Joko Widodo both times.

He refused to acknowledge the results but accepted Widodo's offer of the defense minister position in 2019, a bid for unity.

Polls show 72-year-old Subianto well ahead of his two rivals, though perhaps not with the majority needed to avoid a runoff. While he is the oldest candidate, his running mate is the youngest: 36-year-old Surakarta Mayor Gibran Rakabuming Raka, Widodo's son.

Raka is below the statutory minimum age of 40 but was allowed to run under an exception created by the Constitutional Court — then headed by Widodo's brother-in-law — allowing current and former regional governors to run at age 35.

Subianto has had close ties with hard-line Islamists whom he used to undermine his opponents.

He has vowed to continue Widodo's economic development plan, in what experts view as an attempt to draw on Widodo's popularity. He is strongly opposed by human rights activists, who associate him with torture and disappearances during the final years of the Suharto dictatorship.

GANJAR PRANOWO

Ganjar Pranowo is the governing party candidate, but does not have the support of Widodo, who has distanced himself from the party's campaign and is seen as implicitly backing Subianto and Raka, his son.

Pranowo was a national legislator for the governing Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle for 10 years before being elected in 2013 for the first of two terms as Central Java governor.

While governor, he refused to allow Israel to participate in the Under-20 FIFA World Cup to be held in his province. FIFA subsequently dropped Indonesia as host of the games, triggering a backlash against Pranowo from soccer fans. Israel and Muslim-majority Indonesia do not have diplomatic ties.

He has been a less enthusiastic backer of Widodo's policies than Subianto.

“We want to develop Indonesia faster and continue the good things that have been done by the current government, to fix what is not good enough and to leave the bad ones,” Pranowo said.

His running mate is Mohammad Mahfud, who resigned as security minister to focus on campaigning. He is also a former defense minister, justice minister and chief justice of the Constitutional Court.

ANIES BASWEDAN

Anies Baswedan, the former head of an Islamic university, served as governor of Jakarta until last year after winning a divisive election in 2017 against an ethnic Chinese Christian incumbent backed by Widodo.

Baswedan, a former Fulbright scholar, had been education and culture minister from 2014 to 2016, when Widodo removed him from the Cabinet.

Backed by conservative Muslim groups, he galvanized hundreds of thousands to take to the streets in 2016 against the Christian governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, who was then imprisoned on blasphemy charges after quoting the Quran in a speech. Baswedan was seen as using the controversy to successfully run for governor.

His use of religious identity politics in the 2017 election distanced him from moderate Muslims. His choice of Muhaimin Iskandar as his running mate in Wednesday's election is viewed as an attempt to rebuild that support.

Iskandar’s Islam-based National Awakening Party has strong ties with Indonesia’s largest Islamic organization, Nahdlatul Ulama, which boasts over 45 million members.

Baswedan opposes Widodo's signature plan to move Indonesia’s capital from Jakarta to Nusantara on the island of Borneo, about 2,000 kilometers (1,240 miles) away, which involves constructing government buildings and housing from scratch.

He said in an interview with The Associated Press last month that democracy in Indonesia is declining, referring to Subianto's choice of Widodo's son as his running mate, and pledged to get it back on track.

“This means that there is a decline in trust, it means that our democracy is experiencing a decline in quality, it means that many legal rules are being bent,” he said.

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