Indonesia heads to polls, to elect Widodo’s successor

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesian voters headed to polls on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024, to elect a new president as the world’s third-largest democracy aspires to become a global economic powerhouse a quarter-century after shaking off a brutal dictatorship.

The front-runner, Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto, is the only candidate with ties to the Suharto era. He was a special forces commander at the time and has been accused of human rights atrocities, which he vehemently denies.

Two former provincial governors, Anies Baswedan and Ganjar Pranowo, are also vying to succeed the immensely popular President Joko Widodo, who is serving the final of his two terms in office. Widodo’s rise from a riverside slum to the presidency has shown the vibrancy of Indonesia’s democracy in a region rife with authoritarian regimes.

Widodo’s successor will inherit an economy with impressive growth and ambitious infrastructure projects, including the ongoing transfer of the nation’s capital from congested Jakarta to the frontier island of Borneo at a staggering cost exceeding $30 billion.

The election also has high stakes for the United States and China, since Indonesia has a huge domestic market, natural resources like nickel and palm oil, and diplomatic influence with its Southeast Asian neighbors.

Polls opened at 7 a.m. in each of the three time zones across the tropical nation’s 17,000 islands inhabited by 270 million people. The logistics of the vote were daunting: Ballot boxes and ballots were transported by boats, motorcycles, horses and on foot in some of the more far-flung locations.

A fierce thunderstorm flooded several streets of Jakarta at dawn Wednesday. Last week, damage from heavy rains in Central Java’s Demak regency prompted the postponement of the election in 10 villages.

Aside from the presidency, some 20,000 national, provincial and district parliamentary posts were being contested by tens of thousands of candidates in one of the world’s largest elections, which authorities expect to be largely peaceful. About 10,000 aspirants from 18 political parties were eyeing the national parliament’s 580 seats alone.


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