TUNGGA BASUKI WRITES– The 2019 Indonesian Presidential elections came to a close on April 17 with a split in opinion within the nation as to who should be the next president, but with incumbent President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) winning by a 6% margin.

The two candidates running to become president, Jokowi and Prabowo Subianto, were the same candidates in the last nationwide election of 2014. Though the candidates were the same, there have been a lot of changes in their strategies to gain proponents on their side.

In previous elections, religion has played a huge part in gaining supporters to one side or the other. Ninety percent of the Indonesian population is Muslim, 269.54 Million, making it the most populous Muslim country in the world.

As a developing nation, Indonesians are beginning to look at other qualities, such as, Leadership Experience, Notable Achievements, and Military background in their president. Having said that, the effect of Islam is still a major factor. Pro-islamists state that the “Quran is clear and Muslims cannot be led by Christians (or by Jews).” Un fact, a far from settled question within Islam,” as the The Atlantic once rightly noted.  

During the 2014 elections, Jokowi was criticized as not Islamic enough, and, as being a businessman was his previous profession, this only fueled this criticism.. This time around, Jokowi took on Ma’ruf Amin as his running mate in the 2019 elections. Ma’ruf Amin – known as one of the most powerful Islamic clerics in the country — is the head of Indonesia’s biggest political Islamic group:  the Muslim Ulama Council (MUI). “Maybe there are questions from the people all over Indonesia why Professor Dr. Ma’ruf Amin was chosen. Because he is a wise religious figure,” Jokowi told Reuters.

Prabowo was believed to be the more ideal candidate, and ex-military general aside who is a devout Islamist.. Despite his loss in 2014, Prabowo kept the same campaign strategy as that of in 2014, using his pious Islamic image to get Islamic voters on his side. A survey done in march showed that Prabowo’s camp increased 4.7% points over the past 6 months, while Jokowi’s camp suffered a 3.4% decline. Using the topic of religion proved to be a very effective strategy as faith plays a significant role in the more rural areas of the country

Prabowo’s running mate this year, multi-millionaire businessman Sandiaga Uno, was brought on to address problems related to the economy. “We are going into turbulent economic times…. We need strong leaders with a firm grip on issues like jobs and prices,” Sandiaga Uno, Reuters.

As Indonesia keeps developing, other factors such as leadership experience, notable achievements, and military background will have more impact towards future elections, but religion will always be a very significant factor in any election that is nationwide. In about two weeks or so, the final, official results are to be announced by the Indonesian Election Commission (KPU). Prabowo will challenge this, but it looks like Jokowi will be certified (with a margin of 4-5 percent). Then it’s up to the Indonesian Constitutional to rule on the Prabowo appeal. What an exhausting process!

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