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Asia Minute: Indonesian Presidential Campaign Kicks Off

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Office of the Vice President
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While politicians in the United States continue to focus on the partial government shutdown, in some parts of the world attention is shifting to upcoming elections. That includes Southeast Asia . . . where one presidential contest appears headed for a rematch.

When Indonesian voters go to the polls in mid-April, they’ll choose between two familiar presidential candidates. Incumbent Joko Widodo, also known as “Jokowi” is facing off against the person he beat for the office five years ago — retired Army General Prabowo Subianto.

On Thursday, the campaign kicked off with its opening debate — broadcast live on 18 television and radio stations.

Prabowo accused Jokowi of discriminating against the poor when it comes to law enforcement — the incumbent called the charges “baseless accusations.”

Other themes included allegations of corruption within the government, and the state of the economy — which has averaged about five-percent growth during Jokowi’s administration. That’s impressive by international standards, but short of the 7 percent growth he promised in his last campaign.

This year’s election will also feature candidates for Indonesia’s House of Representatives — the first time those elections will be held at the same time.

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Credit Prabowo Subianto / Wikimedia Commons
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Wikimedia Commons
Prabowo Subianto

At this point, Jokowi holds a wide lead — from 12 to 24 percentage points in the latest polls.

But in the last campaign, Jokowi went from having a substantial lead in the pre-election polls to winning by a much narrower margin.

And this year, four more debates are still on the way.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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