As Islamists cast their shadow, Jokowi still leads in Indonesia's presidential election
Jakarta (AsiaNews) - Joko "Jokowi" Widodo met today with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono at the Presidential Palace to tender his resignation from his post as Jakarta governor in order to run in upcoming presidential election slated for July.
In the highly symbolic ceremony, Indonesia's rising political star showed "humility" and "deference to the president (pictured), who for the occasion was surrounded by his cabinet.
Despite some criticism for not having picked yet a running mate, Jakarta's outgoing governor remains very popular with the public.
Yesterday, Prabowo Subianto, a former general and son of famous economist Djojohadikusumo, and his vice presidential candidate Hatta Radjasa, Indonesia's current Minister of Economy and Finance, also with President Yudhoyono.
As Jokowi's main challenger according to some experts, Subianto got into the ring right away, launching a major attack against his rival, in which he called Jokowi a "political puppet" of former President Megawati Sukarnoputri.
In the world's most populous Muslim country, tensions in the presidential campaign remain high. Among other things, radical Islamists continue to push for Islamic law against the wishes of the more secular-oriented and liberal elements of the population.
Still, the political fortunes of Jakarta's former governor seem to be improving considerably as he draws thousands of young, enthusiastic self-styled 'Jokowi's friends".
According to Indonesian analysts and policy experts, Subianto's attack on him stems from the decision by Ms Megawati and her Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P) to pick their own candidate and not support the leader of Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra).
In doing so, Ms Megawati would be breaking the "Batutulis Deal Agreement", which the two parties had agreed upon in 2009, but which fell through when Yudhoyono was re-elected for a second mandate.
With Gerindra and PDIP at odds with each other, two or three tickets would thus be competitive in what remains an uncertain poll.
The first one could see nationalist parties, including Megawati's party and the moderate Islamist National Awakening Party (PKB) stand behind Jokowi. Jusuf Kalla, a former vice president during Yudhoyono's first term, or Abraham Samad, chairman of the Corruption Eradication Commission, could be his running mate.
Another one would see former President Suharto's Golkar Party join Subianto's Gerindra Party, with as running mate Hatta Radjasa, father-in-law of President Yudhoyono's second son, Edhi Baskoro "Ibas" Yudhoyono.
President Yudhoyono and his party have not yet said what they plan to do. Some observers believe that they will end up backing Subianto-Radjasa, but second thoughts are still possible at the last moment.
Although some uncertainty still lingers among Islamist parties, the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and United Development Party (PPP) have already decide to throw their support behind the Subianto-Radjasa ticket.
Conversely, the moderate National Awakening Party (PKB) of former President Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid stands behind the charismatic and politically fresh-faced Jokowi because of his concerns for the poor.
According to the latest polls, the latter continues to enjoy broad support among ordinary Indonesians, both young and old. For many, his "spontaneity" is a breath of fresh air in the stifled corridors of old-time politics.
Radical Islamists instead continue to oppose Jakarta's ex-governor, fuming over his rising popularity, and especially his decision to choose a Sino-Indonesian Christian as his deputy when he ran in the capital.
Such a choice certainly did not endear him among extremists who saw it as evidence that the governor was a puppet in the hands of Jewish-American lobbies backed by the country's Christian minority.