Indonesia presidential contenders vow peaceful campaign
Indonesian President Joko Widodo, second left, and his running mate Maâruf Amin, left, and his contender Prabowo Subianto, second right, with his running mate Sandiaga Uno, right, release birds during a ceremony marking the kick off of the campaign period for next yearâs election in Jakarta, Indonesia, Sunday, Sept. 23, 2018. Indonesia is set to hold its presidential and parliamentary election poll in April 2019. (Tatan Syuflana/Associated Press) September 23 at 1:23 AM
JAKARTA, Indonesia â" Campaigning for Indonesiaâs presidential election officially began Sunday with the two contenders releasing white doves and vowing a peaceful race as concerns simmer the campaign will sharpen religious and ethnic divide s.
The election due in April pits incumbent Joko âJokowiâ Widodo against former general and ultranationalist Prabowo Subianto, who lost to Jokowi in 2014.
Dressed in traditional clothing, the candidates and their running mates paraded through central Jakarta on Sunday and released doves at a ceremony after reading out a peaceful campaign declaration.
The 2014 presidential election was marred by dirty campaigning and wild internet rumors that Jokowi was a secret communist and of Chinese background, accusations often used in Indonesia to discredit or intimidate political opponents.
Jokowi, the first Indonesian president from outside the countryâs political and military elite, has picked conservative cleric Maâruf Amin as his running mate, aiming to neutralize criticism that he is insufficiently Muslim.
He has a big but not unassailable lead over Prabowo in polls and Indonesiaâs recent hosting of the Asian Games further burnished his image.< /p>
With a population of more than 260 million, Muslim majority Indonesia is the worldâs third-largest democracy after India and the U.S. The countryâs image as a moderate Muslim nation has been undermined by flaring intolerance in the past several years, from the imprisonment of Jakartaâs Christian governor, who was a Jokowi ally, for blasphemy to the canings of gay men in Aceh, a province that practices Shariah law.
Most of Jokowiâs five-year term has been spent balancing the demands of his moderate base, powerful Islamic conservatives, a complicated parliamentary coalition and the military, which has never completely accepted its diminished role following the end of the Suharto dictatorship two decades ago.
Upgrading Indonesiaâs creaking infrastructure has been his signature policy but progress is uneven and many Indonesians still yearn for the strong-man type leadership represented by Suharto era figures such as Prabowo.
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