Friday, March 22

Widodo chooses cleric as VP pick in election race


Widodo (left) and Amin (right) meet supporters in Jakarta, Indonesia.

JAKARTA: Indonesia’s 2019 presidential race took shape yesterday with incumbent Joko Widodo choosing to run alongside a conservative Islamic cleric against controversial ex-general Prabowo Subianto.

Widodo, whose down-to-earth style and ambitious infrastructure drive has made him popular with many Indonesians, picked cleric Ma’ruf Amin as his vice presidential nominee.

The decision will bolster the president’s Islamic credentials but could be polarising among more progressive voters.

Amin, 75, is the current chairman the country’s top Islamic authority the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), which issues fatwas and has some influence over government policy on Islamic matters.

Known for his disparaging views towards certain minorities, including Indonesia’s LGBT community, Amin was instrumental in the jailing of Jakarta’s former Christian governor Basuki ‘Ahok’ Purnama in 2017 by declaring he had committed blasphemy.

Widodo told supporters yesterday, however, he wanted an election fought on ideas and achievements, ‘not divisiveness’.

The pair will square off against Prabowo and deputy Jakarta governor Sandiaga Uno, a former businessman and private equity tycoon.

Prabowo (left) and Sandiaga Uno announce their bid in the 2019 presidential elections. —Reuters photos

Prabowo, who lost to Widodo in 2014, officially enjoys the support of the Democratic Party and two small Islamic parties, the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and the National Mandate Party (PAN).

Opinion polls show Prabowo is well behind Widodo, who is popularly known as Jokowi.

Prabowo was a top military figure in the chaotic months before dictator Suharto was toppled by student protests in 1998.

Following the strongman’s downfall, he admitted ordering the abduction of democracy activists and was discharged from the military for exceeding orders, but has never faced a civilian court.— AFP