Indonesian President Joko Widodo choses conservative Muslim cleric for running mate

Blanche Robertson
August 12, 2018

The battle lines for Indonesia's 2019 presidential election were drawn Friday as the incumbent Joko "Jokowi" Widodo formally registered as a candidate after choosing a conservative Islamic cleric as his running mate.

Prabowo and Sandiaga are supported by a coalition of four political parties, including the third largest Great Indonesia Movement Party, the Democratic Party chaired by former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the Prosperous and Justice Party and the National Mandate Party.

"Democracy is not war, democracy is not hostility, but is a contest of ideas, track record and achievements", Jokowi said.

"Maybe there are questions from the people all over Indonesia why Professor Dr. Ma'ruf Amin was chosen". Amin is now Chairman of the Indonesian Ulema Council (Majelis Ulama Indonesia) as well as Chairman of the advisory council of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the world's largest Islamic organization. For many years religious and political figures belonging to the Islamic world accused him of being anti-Islam; of coming from a Communist family and from the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI); of favoring favor the Chinese minorities, very powerful in the country, who come to Indonesia to work in multinationals and in various commercial companies.

The opposition party Gerindrra asked General Prabowo Subianto, who was defeated in 2014 in the "Jokowi" elections, to seek a Muslim religious leader as a deputy. Human rights groups allege he led a 1983 massacre in East Timor in which more than 300 people were killed.

In December a year ago, Ma'ruf said he regretted the Constitutional Court's decision to reject a petition to criminalise gay sex, calling for a "stern prohibition" of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender activities.

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"We hope that in the next two or three hours there will be an agreement between Prabowo and the Democrats", Democratic Party deputy secretary general Andi Arief said.

There was a celebratory atmosphere and snarled traffic outside the election commission in central Jakarta as the candidates arrived.

But even when Jokowi has his Islamic bases covered, the analyst says Jokowi faces another challenge of youth voters interested in Ma'ruf's opponent, Sandiaga, who is a younger candidate. "They want to struggle for our beloved nation", he said.

Changing the political leadership structure ahead of the 2019 presidential elections.

Next year's election will be a re-run of the 2014 presidential poll, with former military strongman Prabowo Subianto declaring his candidacy once again. However, we are still waiting for the official announcement.

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