Prabowo picks President Joko Widodo’s son as running mate in Indonesian elections

2023 10 22 INDONESIA POLITICS 1 scaled
FILE PHOTO: Indonesian President Joko Widodo is congratulated by the Gerindra Party Chairman Prabowo Subianto, who was his election rival, after his presidential inauguration for the second term, at the House of Representatives building in Jakarta, Indonesia, October 20, 2019. Achmad Ibrahim/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

Indonesia’s minister of defence and presidential candidate, Prabowo Subianto, announced on Sunday that President Joko Widodo’s eldest son will be his running mate in the upcoming presidential election scheduled for early next year. The choice of Gibran Rakabuming Raka, a 36-year-old currently serving as the mayor of Surakarta city, is an interesting move in the Indonesian political landscape.

President Jokowi, himself the PDI-P’s candidate twice, he has so far refused to endorse Ganjar Pranowo, the official candidate of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle. For many in Indonesia, the move to have Jokowi’s son as the vice-presidential candidate for front-runner Prabowo is seen as a clear sign of support from the President towards his former rival, the current minister of defence and presidential hopeful.

Subianto declared the decision in a statement outside his residence in Jakarta, stating, “By consensus, everyone agrees to support Prabowo Subianto as the presidential candidate and Gibran Rakabuming Raka as the vice-presidential candidate.”

Representatives from his coalition party, known as Advanced Indonesia, stood with him as he made this announcement.
Raka is affiliated with Joko Widodo’s ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P). However, President Widodo has refuted allegations of attempting to dominate the nation’s political landscape, stressing that the choice of the country’s next leader and vice-president should be determined by the people.

The PDI-P, in contrast, has put forward Ganjar Pranowo, the former governor of Central Java, as their presidential candidate, and he has chosen Mahfud MD, the chief security minister, as his running mate. In a distant third place in the presidential race is former Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan, who enjoys favour among conservative Muslims and Islamist factions in this predominantly Muslim country.

With more than 204 million eligible voters expected to participate, the election is set for February 14. The winner will succeed President Widodo, who has been in office for two terms since his initial election in 2014. The newly elected president will be inaugurated in October of the following year, as stated by the elections commission.

As he declared multiple times, Prabowo’s campaign focuses on unity. Having already run and lost twice against President Jokowi, Prabowo decided to join forces and serve as the minister of defence. His main campaign focus is making sure nobody in Indonesia will be left behind. The core of his campaign is a daring manifesto focusing on strategic projects to build irrigation and bring clean drinking water to families in remote areas, construct schools and hospitals, further stimulating economic development and making sure poverty is eradicated. Offering a daily free meal to every school child and eliminating tuberculosis are some of the pillars of Prabowo’s offer.

Prabowo also stressed the importance of a clean and corruption-free government, promising strict measures against any form of graft. Aiming for a more progressive and inclusive Indonesia, he has pledged to promote gender equality and increase women’s participation in politics.

The coming weeks will be decisive for the outcome of this election. Everyone predicts that the first round will be a hard fought one, with Prabowo and Ganjar making it to the second and decisive round. Whether President Jokowi will continue to refrain from formally endorsing any of the candidates remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure – with his own son running as the vice-presidential candidate for Prabowo, Joko Widodo has signalled openly and clearly who he will be voting for in the next elections. And with the skyrocketing approval rating of President Jokowi, such an endorsement, albeit an unofficial one, is the best endorsement Prabowo could have hoped for.

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