Indonesia’s incumbent president Joko Widodo (Jokowi) won re-election by a comfortable margin in the country’s presidential election on April 17, 2019 (although the results will not be made official until May 22). The early ‘quick count’ results put Jokowi in the lead, with 55 per cent of the votes compared to opponent Prabowo Subianto, with 45 per cent. In 2014, Jokowi faced off against Subianto for the first time, and his victory made him the first president who did not hail from the Indonesian ruling elite. The furniture-seller turned politician was widely seen as a “man of the people,” while his rival Prabowo, a general and the son-in-law of former dictator Suharto, stood in stark contrast.
Indonesia is home to the world’s largest Muslim population and the third-largest democracy. Although the election was largely seen as peaceful, the campaign period was marked by populist rhetoric and polarizing debates about national and religious identity amidst the growing influence of conservative Islam. Prabowo courted the support of hardline Muslims, while Jokowi, in response to accusations of being anti-Islam, named a prominent religious cleric as his running mate. The spread of fake news on social media during the election campaign only exacerbated religious tensions within the country.
And yet, the battle is not over for Jokowi, as he must now fulfil his promises of sustaining economic growth, creating jobs, and addressing human rights concerns. Meanwhile, he will have to contend with the growing influence of conservative Islamic forces and greater polarization within Indonesian society.