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Presidential Hopefuls in Indonesian Election 2014

The next Indonesian presidential election is going to be held on July 9, 2014 to elect the seventh Indonesian President for a five-year term. This third direct election will end the second term of incumbent President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY), who has been in the post since 2004. Here is a brief summary of the hopefuls for the presidency that have surfaced for the 2014 election.

Joko Widodo

Joko Widodo, popularly known as Jokowi, belongs to the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), which is led by Megawati Sukarnoputri. The 52-year-old previous Mayor of Surakarta and current Governor of Jakarta has emerged as the most favored and electable candidate for the presidency. Most recently, a poll by Pusat Data Bersatu (PDB) has placed him well ahead of other candidates with 36% respondents voting in his favor. At least eight other surveys in 2013 have also named Jokowi as the most popular candidate.

Jokowi is well-known for his swift attitude and has favorable track record, being named as one of the world’s ten best mayors by Tempo Magazine in 2008. His informal and down-to-earth ways are much liked, especially by young Indonesians. Unlike other politicians, Jokowi’s guy-next-door persona makes it easy for everyone to feel connected to him. His apparent sincerity has also earned him a reputation of being a leader who actually cares about his people. In times when corruption is a major issue in Indonesia, Jokowi is expected to bring fresh perspective, new direction, and clarity to the country.

Despite his popularity, the man himself has repeatedly brushed aside questions about his intention to run and PDI-P has made nothing official as yet. Nevertheless, it is not inconceivable that, given Jokowi’s popularity, Megawati will nominate him as PDI-P’s candidate. Such possibility has attracted several criticisms, mainly from state officials and political figures, concerning his readiness to lead a country after holding the governor post for just one year as well as questions about his efforts to evict people from a dam near North Jakarta. However, rather than weakening his position, these criticisms may instead serve to boost his popularity as his cool responses to these attacks continue to impress the public.

Prabowo Subianto

Another strong contender for the presidential seat is Prabowo Subianto, a former high military officer, a successful businessman, and a politician. He is the founder of the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) and the son of Sumitro Djojohadikusumo, a renowned economist and former husband of Titiek Suharto, the daughter of late President Suharto. According to the Forbes magazine in 2012, Prabowo’s younger brother, Hashim Djojohadikusumo is the 39th richest person of Indonesia, with an estimated wealth of about $750 million. Prabowo was a vice-president candidate in the 2009 election, running with Megawati Sukarnoputri as the presidential candidate.

While his strong political support and vast wealth put him at a great advantage to win the race, his controversial past may prove to be his stumbling block. In early 1990s, Prabowo was accused of human rights violations when he was crushing the East Timorese independence movement. Nevertheless, this may not deter his supporters who hope that he will bring strong, decisive leadership for Indonesia, something that may not be delivered consistently by President SBY.

Wiranto

Wiranto is a retired army general and the chairman of the People’s Conscience Party (Hanura). Not a new name in the race for presidency, Wiranto has run and lost in both 2004 and 2009 elections. Seemingly unfazed by these failures, he was the first  candidate to announce his bid for 2014 election.

Wiranto’s supporters see him as a good presidential candidate however his critics see him as a war criminal. Similar to Prabowo, he has also faced accusation of human rights violations in East Timor, which he denied.

Aburizal Bakrie

Aburizal Bakrie, who announced his bid for presidency in 2012, is the chairman of the Golkar Party. He is a successful businessman who heads the Bakrie Group and is one of the richest persons in Indonesia. He has served several key positions in the government, including President of the ASEAN business forum (1991-1995), President of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (1994-2004), Coordinating Minister for Economy (2004-2005) and Coordinating Minister for People’s Welfare (2005-2009).

However, being surrounded with numerous controversies such that of the Lapindo mudflow, Bakrie is so far one of the least favorite candidates according to various polls in the country.

Other Candidates

A total of 10 political parties have been declared eligible by Indonesia’s General Election Commission to contest for the 2014 parliamentary and presidential elections. The ten in the list include one newcomer,  the National Democrat Party, which was founded by Surya Paloh, a national media mogul.

The ruling Democratic Party is yet to nominate its candidate for the presidency. Some names that have been circulating around the media as possible choices include Gita Wirjawan, Dahlan Iskan, Jero Wacik, Marzuki Ali, Mahfud MD, Pramono Edhie, and Hatta Rajasa.

Expectations and Issues

People of Indonesia are looking for a strong leader who can give clear direction for the country and help it cope with the rising corruption that continues to haunt its economy.

Execution of a free and fair election is likely to remain a challenge. Already, media reports are showing that the voter list has several discrepancies which pose a threat to the election result.

About 187 million new voters between the age group of 16-20 will be participating in the upcoming election. These young voters can change the entire dynamics of the elections and shape the future of Indonesia differently. Till 2014, all eyes will be pinned to see who will become the next leader of Indonesia.

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Global Indonesian Voices (GIV) is Indonesia’s first independent online media, established for ‘Connecting Indonesia to the World‘ by publishing independent news and stories written by and for Indonesians and Indonesia-philes all around the world.

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