JAKARTA, Indonesia — On Wednesday, July 9, the 190 million voters of Indonesia voted on their new president. The race is between Prabowo Subianto, a former general and Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, the governor of Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital.
Indonesia is a fairly new democracy, electing its first president in 1998, but is considered the world’s third largest democracy with the amount of voters, 67 million of which will be voting for the first time. With 90 percent of the citizens being Muslim, and a smooth and successful transition to democracy in 1998, Indonesia has proven to be an example of how democracy can thrive in an Islamic state.
The emerging country is also among the Mints (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey), a group of countries expected to rise exponentially in the near future. It is predicted to become the seventh largest economy in the world by the year 2030. With the nation rising politically and economically, their future will have an effect on the world, and this future will depend on their next leader.
Prabowo Subianto was previously a military commander, and had close ties to the dictatorship that was in Indonesia from 1967-1998. He had a head start with his candidacy, seeing as he has political power and wealth. One thing Prabowo has that is considered a strength as a leader is his assertive demeanor. He is seen as a decisive leader among Indonesians, who believe that is they key to gaining international respect.
A contractor said about Prabowo: “A nation is respected by other countries because of its leader, if the leader is assertive, we are going to be respected.”
This assertive behavior and previous military career has its setbacks for his campaign as well, with citizens fearing that he is opposed to democracy and will set back the nation to one with less checks and balances on the government. Prabowo also has an unfortunate human rights record, where he as been a part of war crimes against East Timor, oversaw forces that kidnapped pro-democracy activists during Suharto’s rule and is banned from entering the United States.
Joko Widodo came from a humble background, raised in a slum in the town Sarukarta. He became mayor of Sarukarta, reduced the high crime rates and made the town an area to be proud of, popular among tourists for their art and culture. He was given 3rd place in a 2012 competition for the world’s top mayors. Throughout his time in office, he became known as a fair and honest public servant.
Although Jokowi has a humble beginning, he is currently backed by many powerful people, giving him a needed political edge. One of his supporters is former president Megawati Sukarnoputri, who appointed Jokowi to be his party’s presidential candidate. Jokowi has also received endorsement from Indonesia’s National Commission on Human Rights. Jokowi’s lack of a political background has also helped him in some cases, seeing as he has no former business with Indonesia’s old dictatorship.
After the ballots were tallied Wednesday, Jokowi is currently in the lead wit 53.3 percent of the votes that have been counted.
No matter the winner of this election, either candidate will have to be able to unify the country in order to be successful domestically or internationally. With Indonesia rising in its place globally, their success as a nation affects the rest of the world as well. The need to unify the country strikes debate among the voters, with some believing the human rights violations of Prabowo can be ignored for his assertiveness, which is preferable to Jokowi’s “lack of a strong mandate to reform”, and others believing that Jokowi’s down to earth start is the best way to keep Indonesia free and thriving.
The winner will be replacing current president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who by constitutional law cannot run for a third term.
While the voting has already taken place, the winner has not been identified yet. The results are required to be announced within 14 days of the election, so the world will know by July 22 what the future of Indonesia holds.
– Courtney Prentice
Sources: Think Progress, The Guardian, Bloomberg, NY Times