Former General to Take on Widodo in Indonesia Presidential Race

(Bloomberg) -- Former general Prabowo Subianto has accepted his party’s nomination to challenge incumbent Joko Widodo in next year’s presidential election, setting up a rerun of the 2014 race.

A national convention of the members from Indonesia’s main opposition party, Gerindra, picked Subianto, known as Prabowo, as its presidential candidate on Wednesday. The former special forces commander’s endorsement had been widely expected -- hours later Prabowo accepted the endorsement 

“He states he accepts the mandate given to him by the party to become presidential candidate," party spokesman Irawan Ronodipuro said in a statement.

An aggressive campaigner, Prabowo is set to mount a serious challenge to Widodo, known as Jokowi, though recent opinion polls show the president holding a significant lead over other likely contenders. Prabowo has worked to cultivate an image of being in touch with voters on bread-and butter issues like education and tackling inequality and as a no-nonsense leader who would be tough on corruption.

Jokowi is the first president to come from outside the political elite and the military, while Prabowo has strong ties to Indonesia’s dynastic families. His father served as a minister under former ruler Sukarno and dictator Suharto, and was a chief architect of Indonesian economic policy in the late 1960s. Prabowo was married to a daughter of Suharto.

Since Prabowo’s loss in 2014, Gerindra has assumed the mantle of the country’s main opposition party while the former general has remained visible in the political arena. The party is set to fight the election on economic issues and wants a budget shake-up including more money for defense spending, Hashim Djojohadikusumo, Gerindra’s co-founder and Prabowo’s brother, said in an interview in February.

Jokowi has won endorsement from his Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle and four other parties of his coalition government. A poll of 1,220 people by Saiful Mujani Research Centre published in January showed Jokowi with 64 percent support of voters, compared to Subianto’s 27 percent.

Nominations for the presidential race have to be finalized by August this year ahead of voting scheduled for April 2019.

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