On 23 September 2018 the campaign period officially started for Indonesia’s 2019 presidential election. This period runs up to 13 April 2019 (while the election is scheduled for 17 April 2019). Despite the start of the campaign period it has remained rather calm between the two opposing sides: (1) incumbent President Joko Widodo with Islamic clerk Ma’ruf Amin versus (2) Gerindra Chairman Prabowo Subianto with businessman Sandiaga Uno.
Obviously, the disastrous earthquakes and tsunami in Central Sulawesi – where possibly thousands of people have died – deserve all attention now and are a valid reason for both sides to somewhat temper expressions related to their political ambitions.
But also in the days before the natural disaster in Central Sulawesi there was no firework. During the first speeches after the campaign period was officially opened, both presidential contenders released white doves and vowed a peaceful race.
As is widely known, there was major concern that Indonesia’s 2019 presidential election would become a dirty race (similar to the 2017 gubernatorial election of Jakarta) filled with religious sentiments and hoaxes. However, after Widodo selected Amin – a high authority in Indonesia’s Muslim circles - as his running mate, opposition cannot use this strategy.
Instead, opposition focuses on the economy. Indeed Indonesia’s economic growth has been subdued over the past five years (remaining stagnantly around a 5.0 percent year-on-year growth pace), while the rupiah has touched a 20-year low against the US dollar. Those who understand economics and follow international news will know that external pressures are to blame for this and therefore it is largely outside Widodo’s control. Especially because Widodo inherited a country that is highly dependent on commodity exports as well as on fuel imports, while there is a big lack of hard and soft infrastructure development. These are all issues that cannot be resolved in one presidential term.
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