ST Picks: Who will be Indonesia’s next president?

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February 12, 2024 at 5:00 AM

JAKARTA –  About 205 million Indonesians are eligible to vote for a new president on Feb 14. Here is a closer look at the three men vying to lead the world’s third-largest democracy.

Anies Baswedan

Mr Anies, 54, was born into a family of academics. He followed in his parents’ footsteps to become a lecturer. He led Paramadina University in South Jakarta at the age of 37, leaving his mark as one of Indonesia’s youngest rectors. Politics then beckoned.

He was culture and education minister between 2014 and 2016, and then served as Jakarta governor from 2017 to 2022.

But his path to becoming governor was controversial. In the race for the post, he accepted the endorsement of hardline Islamist groups that played the religious card against his rival, Mr Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, an ethnic Chinese Christian who was later jailed for blasphemy.

Mr Anies was praised for his Covid-19 response, but he has not solved the capital city’s perennial problems such as traffic congestion, flooding and air pollution.

He is not a cadre of a political party. He was first endorsed as a presidential candidate by the nationalist NasDem Party, which then joined forces with two Islamist parties, the Prosperous Justice Party and the National Awakening Party. He is running with the latter’s chairman, Mr Muhaimin Iskandar, 57.

The pair have pledged to create 15 million jobs to reduce unemployment, including by building an entrepreneurial ecosystem to create start-ups. Another key proposal of theirs is to develop 40 cities equal to Jakarta to spur regional economic growth, by upgrading infrastructure in second-tier cities. 

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