Presidential hopeful in Indonesia vows end to patronage politics

54-year-old Anies, a presidential aspirant in Indonesia, has pledged a transformative agenda aiming to restore civic life during a recent Reuters interview.

Former Jakarta Governor and presidential candidate Anies Baswedan speaks during his campaign at a sports hall in Tasikmalaya, West Java province, Indonesia, January 4, 2024. REUTERS/Ajeng Dinar Ulfiana

The promise for change resonates amid widespread discontent among Indonesians, including senior government figures, who perceive President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) as attempting to exert influence beyond his term.

In October, the Constitutional Court, led by Jokowi’s brother-in-law, adjusted election eligibility criteria, permitting the president’s son to run for vice president alongside Prabowo. This move raised concerns about a potential return to nepotism and patronage politics reminiscent of the Suharto era.

Jokowi, a controversial former general and Suharto’s former son-in-law has now indirectly endorsed Prabowo despite his seeming initial support to Ganjar, a member of the ruling party, PDI-P. Anies highlighted the unprecedented concerns about neutrality and foul play in the current election, contrasting it with past electoral processes.

Acknowledging the challenge of identity politics in Indonesia, he expressed readiness for open-minded assessment based on facts, emphasizing his pro-democracy stance and scholarly persona that has drawn thousands of supporters during campaign stops.

Anies’s electoral strategy involves securing a second position, potentially forcing a runoff if the front-runner, likely Prabowo, fails to attain a simple majority on Feb 14. In a runoff, Anies aims to garner support from Ganjar’s backers. 

Hailing from a middle-class background in Yogyakarta, Anies outlined his policy agenda, including plans for higher tax rates on the ultra-rich, although details were not provided.

Despite criticism for his association with hardline Islamist groups, Anies defended his inclusive track record, citing efforts to ease permit requirements for places of worship of any religion while serving as Jakarta’s leader. 

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