Indonesia’s raucous election season kicked off yesterday with the promise of a fresh style of leadership in the world’s third largest democracy, whose economic promise has been sapped by rampant graft, confusing policy and weak rule. An uncertain election outlook abruptly changed on Friday when the main PDI-P opposition party named the hugely popular governor of Jakarta as its candidate for July’s presidential election. That lifted even further its chances of dominating the parliamentary election on April 9. Opinion polls suggest the presidency is governor Joko Widodo’s to lose, with old-style contenders ex-general Prabowo Subianto and tycoon Aburizal Bakrie trailing far behind. A hint of the euphoria attached to the nomination of the charismatic Widodo, popularly known as Jokowi, was shown in the 3.2 per cent jump in Jakarta share prices after the announcement.
“(It was) driven by sentiment that Indonesia will have a good president who is willing to take difficult decisions, has a good and clean historical track record … and most of all an expectation of a smooth transition of power,” said Wilianto Ie, head of research at Maybank Kim Eng in Jakarta.
It will only be Indonesia’s third direct election since it tumbled into democracy 16 years ago amid social and economic chaos in the wake of the downfall of former dictator Suharto.