Indonesia kicks off presidential race | 2018-09-24 |

Indonesia kicks off presidential race

    24 September, 2018 12:00 AM printer

JAKARTA: Campaigning for Indonesia's presidential election in April kicked off Sunday, pitting incumbent Joko Widodo against a former military general in the race to lead the world's third-biggest democracy.

Opinion polls show Widodo, whose down-to-earth style and ambitious infrastructure drive have made him popular with many Indonesians, well ahead of his main challenger Prabowo Subianto, report agencies.

But his bid for a second term is facing headwinds over his economic record, with the rupiah currency sitting at two-decade lows, and fears of a fake news campaign targeted to disrupt his re-election. Some 186 million voters in the world's largest Muslim-majority country are expected go to the polls on April 17, in an election which will also decide members of national and local parliaments.

Analysts say campaigning is likely to focus on the economy, inequality, identity politics and rising intolerance across the sprawling archipelago of more than 260 million people. Widodo, who is popularly known as Jokowi, surprised many Indonesians in August by choosing to run alongside conservative Islamic cleric Ma'ruf Amin.

Amin, 75, is chairman of the country's top Islamic authority the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), which issues fatwas, and is known for his disparaging views towards certain minorities. About 90 percent of Indonesia's 260 million people have traditionally followed a moderate form of Islam, but there are concerns that the historically secular nation is taking a sharp fundamentalist turn.