Indonesia stops for elections: 192.8 million vote for the new president
by Mathias Hariyadi

As in 2014, THE current president Joko "Jokowi" Widodo challenged by Prabowo Subianto. Observers call the election a "critical day" for the future of young democracy. The government has laid out massive security measures.  Widodo has the task of curbing the enormous influence of Islamic fundamentalist groups and movements.


Jakarta (AsiaNews) - Almost 192.8 million Indonesian citizens on 17 thousand islands in the archipelago are voting today to choose the president, vice-president, 575 members of the People's Representative Council (DPR) - the lower house of parliament - and 24 thousand between provincial and district representatives ( Dpd).

In more than 805 thousand polling stations, voting operations opened this morning at 7am in Papua and will end at 13pm in Jakarta. Observers call the election a "critical day" for the future of young democracy, which is threatened by an Islamist drift. The government has deployed massive security measures: 453,000 police officers and soldiers, as well as 1.6 million civil protection members. Added to these are 6 million volunteers, ready to help voters cast their ballots.

As in 2014, incumbent president Joko "Jokowi" Widodo was challenged by former special forces commander and son-in-law of the late dictator Haji Mohammad Suharto Prabowo Subianto. But unlike the previous elections, in which he had put the strengthening of human rights at the center of his program, the choice of the Islamic cleric Ma'ruf Amin (76 years) this year is likely to cost Jokowi the vote of the moderates.

Amin, who was president of the Council of Indonesian ulema (MUI), had released several fatwas against the former governor of Jakarta, the Chinese-born Christian Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, and Amin thus legitimized the position of those who claimed that, by virtue of of his religion, the politician was not suited to positions of power, in the most populous Islamic country in the world.

According to analysts, the choice of Amin - a conservative who has become moderate - today will allow the president to stem the enormous influence of Islamic fundamentalist groups and movements, such as Hizbut Tahrir (Hti), the Islamic Defender Front (FPI) and others.

Amin is a leading exponent of Nahdlatul Ulama (Nu). This body has 90 million members and is the largest moderate Islamic movement in Indonesia and the world. The Jokowi-Amin couple represents both nationalists and religious. The choice of Prabowo Subianto to appoint billionaire Sandiaga Uno as deputy has fueled fears of a new authoritarian regime among Indonesians. This is partly due to Subianto's past, accused of kidnapping students and other human rights abuses during his military career.

In the 2014 election, Jokowi embodied the Indonesians hope for change, as he has no political background in the Suharto regime. Jokowi won with 53% of the votes, becoming the first Indonesian president without a military past. With the second term, he aims to complete his vast infrastructure plan: 950km of toll roads, 3,400 km of motorways, 40 km of bridges, 10 new airports, 19 ports and 17 dams. For many Indonesians, this represented something new: no previous president had ever managed to coordinate so many projects, due to widespread corruption in the parties.

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