October 28, 2020

Indonesia chooses tomorrow at the polls between pragmatism and nationalism

Indonesia chooses tomorrow at the polls between pragmatism and nationalism

Indonesia, the third largest democracy in the world, tomorrow goes to the polls in elections that face the pragmatism of the current president, the charismatic Joko Widodo, to a possible turn to more nationalist and authoritarian policies in the hands of the ex-general Prabowo Subianto.

More than 192 million Indonesians are called to choose for the second time between the two candidates, who already faced in 2014 in a poll that Jokowi, as the current president is popularly known, won by a narrow margin thanks to his image as a common man and of humble origin.

This time the polls show an advantage in favor of Jokowi of about 20 percentage points on average in the intention to vote, which makes him a favorite, despite the fact that the undecided vote is around 10 percent.

During the campaign, nationalism and the economy have been two of the main tricks used by the contenders of the emerging country and member of the G20, whose GDP is the sixteenth in the world, although its per capita output is below the 110th place.

The use of the vast natural resources of the archipelago of more than 17,000 islands, burdened by enormous inequalities and that requires a huge investment to improve the quality of life in remote islands and far from the developed Java and Sumatra, has focused much of the debate electoral.

Jokowi has boasted of its social policies and nationalization of resources as one of the largest gold and copper mines in the world, located in Papua Indonesia, while Prabowo has accused the president of selling the country to foreign multinationals.

The ex-commander of the Special Forces, who was the son-in-law of dictator Suharto and on whom are accusations of human rights violations during his military past, has promised to create jobs for young people, a key electoral sector, since 40 percent of voters They are between 18 and 35 years old.

His speech, inspired by President Donald Trump, is based on the promise to make Indonesia "big again" and rescue it from problems such as malnutrition, which affects nine million children under the age of five in the country, according to the United Nations. United.

In addition, the former general has chosen as the vice president the successful 49-year-old entrepreneur Sandiaga Uno, who has connected with the young vote with his sports image and his use of new technologies.

Another determining factor in the elections is expected to be religion in the country with the most Muslims in the world -88 percent of its more than 265 million inhabitants-, especially after the increase in Islamist influence in recent years.

"The instrumentalization of religion is not new in Indonesian politics, but it is much more visceral and the polarization has become very real," said the researcher at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), Dewi Fortuna Anwar, during an event on Monday in Jakarta.

The researcher believes that Indonesia, which has grown 5 percent on average annually during the Jokowi legislature, faces the double challenge of consolidating both its economy and its democracy.

Among the problems of the Asian country, Dewi also highlighted the rise of political dynasties and oligarchies, where political and economic powers converge, as well as populism, corruption and the criminalization of detractors of the elites.

In his term, Jokowi has demonstrated his capacity to negotiate with factual powers such as the army or the majority Islamic groups that he has kept close to in his term, which in many cases has prevented the promises of reform he made in 2014.

One of the greatest examples of the president's political pragmatism is the election as his second of an influential and septuagenarian Muslim cleric who chairs Indonesia's Council of Ulemas, Maruf Amin.

For its part, Prabowo has allied with Islamist groups, which has promised progress in the implementation of the "sharia", or Islamic law, in Indonesia, although the profile of the exmilitary is in principle secular.

The proliferation in recent years of social networks in Indonesia, the fourth country in the world with the most Facebook users, has also taken the electoral contest to the internet.

The elections are considered one of the most complex electoral exercises in the world since for the first time in the history of Indonesia they will be presidential and legislative at the same time, which means that 245,000 candidates will opt for 20,000 positions in a single day.

Ricardo Pérez-Solero


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