Widodo chooses cleric as VP pick in election race

Joko Widodo has faced criticism from Islamists thus moving him to bolster his religious credentials. ― Reuters pic

Earlier today it was reported that Prabowo Subianto, Widodo's sole rival in the 2019 presidential election, has (most likely) chosen Deputy Jakarta Governor Sandiaga Uno as his running mate. Both officially registered as candidates after Friday prayers.

Jokowi, the first Indonesian president from outside the military and political elite, announced his vice-presidential candidate, Ma'ruf Amin, on Thursday after weeks of fevered speculation in local media.

The head of the Indonesian Employers Association (Apindo), Hariyadi Sukamdani, viewed the president's decision to tap Ma'aruf Amin as his running mate in the 2019 election was Jokowi's attempt to suppress issues of identity politics, which poses a threat towards Indonesia's unity.

Indonesia, the world's third-largest democracy and biggest Muslim-majority country, goes to the polls in April.

According to the Jakarta Post, Ma'ruf now chairs the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), Indonesia's highest Muslim clerical body that oversees all registered Muslim organisations such as the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), Muhammadiyah and the Islamic Union (Persis).

"Democracy is not a war, democracy is not a hostility, but a contest of ideas, track record of achievement", said Widodo after his registration at the commission office.

The pair will square off against Prabowo and deputy Jakarta governor Sandiaga Uno, a former businessman and private equity tycoon.

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Prabowo was a top military figure in the chaotic months before dictator Suharto was toppled by student protests in 1998.

"We want to be in power on behalf of the people, we want there is no hunger and poor people in Indonesia", Prabowo said after the registration.

Prabowo's candidate for Jakarta governor won the election, which analysts and rights advocates condemned for inflaming sectarian sentiment.

Gerindra Party leader Prabowo Subianto waves to reporters as he arrives for a meeting with former Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono at the Yudhoyono's residence in Jakarta, Indonesia August 9, 2018 in this photo taken by Antara Foto.

"He issued fatwas condemning religious and gender minorities like the Ahmadiyah and LGBT individuals at a time they were subject to violent assaults", he said.

The 2014 presidential election was marred by dirty campaigning and wild internet rumours that Jokowi was a secret communist and of Chinese background, accusations often used in Indonesia to discredit or intimidate political opponents. However, we are still waiting for the official announcement.

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