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Indonesia’s three-way presidential race set as deadline nears

Jakarta (AFP) – The candidates for next year’s Indonesian presidential election were set Wednesday, with septuagenarian former special forces general Prabowo Subianto  and his running mate, the president’s son, seen as the frontrunners.

Nearly 205 million eligible voters can cast their ballot on February 14, with the winner set to succeed President Joko Widodo, popularly known as Jokowi, after he completes the maximum two terms ruling Southeast Asia’s biggest economy.

Three candidates – Defence Minister Subianto, former Central Java governor Ganjar Pranowo and former Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan – confirmed their run for the presidency before Wednesday’s midnight deadline.

Subianto and Widodo’s son Gibran Rakabuming Raka were joined by supporters and a marching band in their journey to the election commission on Wednesday, both dressed in baby blue shirts after attending a concert by tens of thousands at a central Jakarta arena.

“We… ask for the blessing from all Indonesians. We are now facing a very important point in the history of Indonesia,” said Subianto.

“We are at a point where we can rise and become an Indonesia that is great… and an Indonesia where the natural resources are utilised optimally for all.”

The presence of Jokowi’s son on the ticket has fuelled criticism that the president is trying to create a political dynasty in the world’s third-largest democracy, an allegation he denies.

Just before the registration deadline, the constitutional court – led by Widodo’s brother-in-law – controversially ruled that candidates under 40 years old can run for office if they have served in a regional position. Thirty-six-year-old Raka, who is mayor of Surakarta city, would otherwise have been ineligible to contest the vice presidency.

Several polls have put Subianto, 72, marginally ahead of his nearest rival Pranowo.

This is his third run at the top office after losing to Widodo in the previous two elections. 

The incumbent defence chief, a former son-in-law of Indonesia’s late dictator Suharto, remains dogged by allegations of his role in human rights abuses in Jakarta, restive province Papua and breakaway nation East Timor, but has never been charged.

Widodo’s Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) has chosen Pranowo as its candidate.

He is viewed as a figure from a humble background and was initially touted as the favourite. He has announced chief security minister Mahfud MD as his running mate. 

The third challenger Baswedan is favoured by conservative Muslims and chose the chairman of the Islamist National Awakening Party (PKB), Muhaimin Iskandar, as his running mate. 

The next president will be sworn in next October, the elections commission said.

Supporters of Presidential candidate and incumbent Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto and vice presidential candidate and incumbent Solo Mayor Gibran Rakabuming Raka, who is also the son of President Joko Widodo, attend the declaration event before their candidates conduct a registration at the General Election Commission in Jakarta. PHOTO: AFP