Indonesian Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto has registered as a candidate in next year’s presidential election, with the eldest son of incumbent Joko Widodo as his running mate.
Their registration sets the stage for a three-way race on February 14 when the world’s third-largest democracy will hold simultaneous presidential and parliamentary elections.
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Prabowo, 72, and Gibran Rakabuming Raka, 36, were joined by a marching band as they travelled to the General Elections Commission in Jakarta on Wednesday.
“We … ask for the blessing from all Indonesians. We are now facing a very important point in the history of Indonesia,” said Prabowo, who is contesting the presidency for the third time after losing in 2014 and 2019 to Widodo, popularly known as Jokowi.
The duo were met by thousands of cheering supporters as they handed their credentials and manifesto to election officials.
“We’re ready to go forward with our programmes, visions to continue development so that Indonesia can be an advanced and prosperous country,” Prabowo said.
A former special forces commander, Prabowo has a narrow lead in opinion polls over the two other contenders: former provincial Governor Ganjar Pranowo and former Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan.
Indonesia has nearly 205 million eligible voters, with about a third below the age of 30.
Prabowo and Gibran signed up on the last day of the registration period after the constitutional court – led by Widodo’s brother-in-law – controversially ruled last week that candidates younger than 40 years can run for office if they have served in a regional position.
Gibran is a relative political newcomer but is mayor of the central Javan city of Surakarta (also known as Solo).
Under Indonesian law, an eligible citizen can serve a maximum of two presidential terms. But Prabowo’s decision to partner with Gibran could attract some of Jokowi’s still sizeable support base.
But activists and analysts have also raised concerns over what they see as Jokowi’s attempts to retain influence after leaving office.
Allegations of his role in human rights abuses during protests in Jakarta in 1998, the eastern province of Papua and in East Timor as it secured independence, continue to linger around Prabowo, but he has never been charged and has now cultivated a persona that is more charismatic statesman to appeal to younger Indonesians.
Jokowi’s Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) has chosen Ganjar Pranowo as its candidate.
He is viewed as a figure from a humble background and has announced Chief Security Minister Mahfud MD as his running mate.
Anies Baswedan, meanwhile, is favoured by the religiously conservative in the Muslim-majority country. He has chosen Muhaimin Iskandar, the chairman of the National Awakening Party (PKB), as his running mate.