JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesia, the world’s third-largest democracy and biggest Muslim majority country, goes to polls in April.
Following are some details on the candidates for president and vice president, who will govern from 2019 to 2024:
JOKO WIDODO, presidential candidate
The 57-year old president is the first Indonesian leader from outside the political, business and military elites. The son of a woodseller, he grew up near the city of Solo before earning his fortune as a furniture entrepreneur.
He served as mayor of Solo and governor of the capital, Jakarta, where he won plaudits for improving infrastructure, cleaning up slums and promoting small business. He won the presidential election in 2014 on a platform of tackling corruption and investment in infrastructure and education.
As president, he moved swiftly to cut fuel subsidies, redirecting the money to infrastructure and social programs. But he struggled to impose his authority over his coalition.
In 2015, he was humiliated when his political patron and former president Megawati Sukarnoputri described him as a “functionary”. Over time, he wrested more control over his coalition, expanding it so allies held a clear parliamentary majority.
Widodo has overseen investment in infrastructure although there has been criticism about delays and cost blow-outs. Indonesia’s has experienced steady annual growth of 5 percent during his presidency, but below Widodo’s target of 7 percent and 0.7 percentage points less than the average growth rate of the previous decade.
The moderate Muslim has grappled with rising Islamism and intolerance. An adept user of social media with a penchant for impromptu visits to public venues, Widodo’s approval ratings remain high according to polls.
MA’RUF AMIN: Widodo’s vice-presidential candidate
Amin was born near Jakarta when the Dutch East Indies was under Japanese occupation. The 75-yearold cleric and politician has degrees in Islamic law and sharia economics and has written books on Islamic banking and economics, the meaning of jihad, terrorism and fatwas.
He has served as a lawmaker in local and national legislatures, representing the National Awakening Party. The party is affiliated with Indonesia’s largest mass Muslim organization Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) which Amin has led as its “supreme leader” since 2015. NU boasts as many as 40 million members and has considerable political influence.
Amin is also on the board of a government agency promoting the values of Pancasila, Indonesia’s national credo embracing the principles of religious freedom and pluralism.
But rights groups maintain that Amin has played a pivotal role in the rise of intolerance in the world’s largest Muslim majority country as the head of the Indonesian Ulemas Council (MUI) and as an adviser to former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
Under Amin’s leadership, the MUI issued fatwas condemning religious and social minorities such as the Islamic sect Ahmadiyah and homosexuals. The fatwas coincided with a surge in violent attacks on the groups.
During an election for Jakarta governor last year, Amin condemned the then governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, as a blasphemer and testified against him in a trial, though saying during hearings he had not actually viewed the video of a speech Purnama made that led to accusations of insulting the Koran. Purnama, an ethnic Chinese Christian, was sentenced to two years in prison after losing the election. He denied wrongdoing.
PRABOWO SUBIANTO, presidential candidate
The son of a prominent diplomat and economist, Prabowo Subianto hails from an elite but diverse family - his father was a Muslim, his mother a Christian. While some of his siblings followed their mother’s faith, Prabowo chose Islam.
He enlisted in the military aged 19 and six years later joined Kopassus, the army special forces, commanding units in East Timor in the immediate aftermath of Indonesia’s invasion of the former Portuguese territory.
Prabowo married one of the daughters of former authoritarian leader Suharto, though they later divorced. He was head of the Army Strategic Reserve when protesters challenged Suharto’s rule, and Prabowo vehemently defended his former father-in-law. He was discharged from the military over the kidnapping of democracy activists soon after Suharto fell.
Prabowo was banned from entering the United States, among other countries, because of suspicion of human rights abuses in East Timor and Jakarta.
He unsuccessfully tried to become a presidential candidate in 2004, then stood for vice president in 2009 and president in 2014, but lost both contests.
Prabowo has recently warned of the influence of foreigners and the prospect of Indonesia breaking apart. He has also declared himself the candidate for the poor, vowing to address economic inequality.
He has bemoaned what he describes as the decline of state-owned enterprises and Indonesia’s lackluster economic performance
He retains strong support among nationalists, Islamists and those favoring a “strongman” leader.
SANDIAGA UNO: Prabowo’s vice-presidential candidate
A 49-yearold entrepreneur and Jakarta deputy governor, Uno was born on Sumatra but traces his roots to another big island - Sulawesi. His ties to two regions adds to his appeal for almost half of the country’s citizens who live outside the main island of Java, where many chafe at the long-standing dominance of the most populous island.
An early patron was William Soerjadjaja, the founder of Astra, one of Indonesia’s largest conglomerates.
Educated in the United States, with an MBA from George Washington University, Uno worked in investment banking before co-founding a private equity firm in 1998 after the Asian financial crisis.
Within a decade, Uno joined the ranks of Indonesia’s super-rich, although not before several ruptures with business partners. Globe Asia magazine estimated his wealth at $500 million in June 2018.
Uno entered politics in 2015, linking up with Prabowo. An early political assignment was to plot a path to victory for Prabowo’s Gerindra party in the 2017 Jakarta governor election.
Gerindra prevailed in the most divisive campaign in recent Indonesian history. The popular incumbent governor Purnama, plunged in the polls after he was accused of insulting the Koran.
Editing by Robert Birsel