Indonesia kicks off election season as candidates sign up for presidential race

By Stanley Widianto

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Registration gets underway in Indonesia on Thursday for candidates vying to succeed President Joko Widodo after nearly a decade in power, as election season kicks off in earnest in the world’s third-largest democracy.

Nearly 205 million of Indonesia’s more than 270 million people will in February get to choose who will lead a resource-rich country with an economy of more than $1 trillion, and take on an ambitious drive to boost foreign investment, develop downstream industries and transition away from fossil fuel reliance.

The presidential race is expected to be dominated by three men – Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto, 72, and popular former governors Ganjar Pranowo and Anies Baswedan, both 54 years of age.

The camps of Anies and Ganjar have signalled they will register and present their policy platforms at the election commission on Thursday, when a seven-day window opens to join the five-yearly contest.

Opinion polls show Ganjar neck-and-neck with Prabowo, who is making a third run at the presidency having lost to Jokowi in 2014 and 2019. Former Jakarta governor Anies is a distant third.

Candidates will be also be confirming their running mates for the election, ending months of speculation and political manoeuvring aimed at shoring up alliances and making inroads into new voter territory.

Ganjar, the presidential pick for the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P), will be joined on his ticket by respected former judge and current chief security minister Mahfud MD, while Anies will run with Muhaimin Iskandar, the leader of the largest Islamic party, which has ties with an Islamic organisation of 40 million members.

Former special forces commander Prabowo has yet to announce his vice presidential running mate, an issue that has dominated headlines in recent days amid speculation he will be joined by Jokowi’s 36-year-old son, Gibran Rakabuming Raka.

Gibran’s potential run would be controversial after outrage this week over a ruling by the Constitutional Court that a minimum age of 40 need not apply to all candidates seeking the presidency or vice presidency.

Jokowi this week said he had no involvement in presidential candidates, but political insiders have said the outgoing leader is seeking to retain influence and has been covertly marshalling support for Prabowo, having appeared to back Ganjar, the candidate of his PDI-P party.

(Reporting by Stanley Widianto; Additional reporting by Ananda Teresia; Editing by Martin Petty)