Jakarta - On September 23, Indonesian President Joko Widodo officially kicked off of the campaign period for next year's election in Jakarta. About 186 million voters in the world's largest Muslim-majority country are expected go to the polls on April 17, in an election which will also decide members of national and local parliaments. "Prudence and intelligence are needed: in the presidential elections in April 2019", says Catholic Yuli Nugrahani, writer and social worker, to Agenzia Fides, who works for the Justice and Peace Commission in the Diocese of Tanjungkarang and in the Indonesian Bishops Conference. "Young people need to look for accurate and verifiable information - social media can offer most of the data but not all data is true", he said.
According to the polls, Widodo is appreciated for his ambitious infrastructure projects that he started and promised to conclude in his second term. The election campaign will probably focus on economy, inequality, the politics of identity and increasing intolerance through the archipelago with over 260 million inhabitants.
Widodo, who is popularly known as "Jokowi", surprised many Indonesians by choosing to run alongside conservative Islamic cleric Ma'ruf Amin, who was appointed vice president. Amin, 75, is chairman of the country's top Islamic authority the Indonesian Ulema Council , which issues fatwas, and is known for his disparaging views towards certain minorities. About 90% of Indonesians traditionally follow a moderate form of Islam, but there are concerns that the historically secular nation is taking a sharp fundamentalist turn.
The pair will square off against Prabowo and former deputy Jakarta governor Sandiaga Uno, a businessman and private equity tycoon.
Prabowo, who lost to Widodo in 2014, was a top military figure in the chaotic months before dictator Suharto was toppled by student protests in 1998.
According to observers Widodo, who has hired billionaire Erick Thohir as his campaign manager, is most vulnerable when it comes to social economy and inequality: in fact, Indonesia's currency has slumped in recent weeks, falling to levels not seen since the country was embroiled in a region-wide financial crisis that sparked economic ruin and the street protests that led to the downfall of Suharto.
In Indonesia the Muslim population reaches 85%, while Christians are about 10% of the population and 5% belong to other religious minorities.