Twin surprises in two-way Indonesian presidential race

Indonesia's President Joko Widodo (left) with vice-presidential candidate Ma'ruf Amin after submitting their nomination papers to the General Election Commission in Jakarta on Aug 10, 2018.
Indonesia's President Joko Widodo (left) with vice-presidential candidate Ma'ruf Amin after submitting their nomination papers to the General Election Commission in Jakarta on Aug 10, 2018. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

Indonesia's President Joko Widodo has unexpectedly picked a senior Islamic cleric as his running mate.

And Mr Joko's challenger, former general Prabowo Subianto, threw up just as big a surprise by choosing a youthful-looking former businessman as his vice-presidential mate.

The Indonesian presidential election is still eight months away, but the buzz set off by the twin surprises is set to continue all the way until the April 17 polling day.

President Joko, seeking re-election, is seen as trying to bolster his support among Muslim conservatives with his pick of Dr Ma'ruf Amin, 75.

Mr Prabowo, preparing for a rematch of the 2014 presidential polls against Mr Joko, might have just attracted more youth votes by choosing Mr Sandiaga Uno, 49, who tendered his resignation as Jakarta's deputy governor yesterday.

The twin surprises will be hotly debated among political observers and the media in coming months.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 11, 2018, with the headline 'Twin surprises in two-way Indonesian presidential race'. Print Edition | Subscribe