Students wearing Jokowi and Prabowo masks play a game of sack race in Solo, Central Java. (Antara Photo/Maulana Surya)

2019 Election: Jokowi's Stability vs. Prabowo's Protectionism


APRIL 10, 2019

Jakarta. Economic stability or possible protectionism? That's what investors have to think about beyond the 2019 presidential election in Indonesia—due to take place next week, the Economist Intelligence Unit, or EIU, said in a report early this month.

According to the report, titled "Frustrated reform? What lies beyond the April elections in Indonesia," a second term for Joko "Jokowi" Widodo will likely provide more of the same—economic stability and a business-friendly environment.

Meanwhile, a Prabowo Subianto presidency would be an obstacle to potential investors and foreign companies in Indonesia with his protectionist approach.

With close to 70 percent of seats at the House of Representatives (DPR) backing Jokowi, the incumbent enjoys strong parliamentary support. 

Throughout his presidency, Jokowi has been trying to boost his image as a devout Muslim and a millennial-friendly leader.

Jokowi's laser focus on infrastructure development and support for the digital economy will make him the favorite among investors. 

But Jokowi’s reformist image in the 2014 presidential election quickly faded as his dependence on political patrons and a weak social base stopped him from fulfilling promises of progressive reforms.

Non-tariff trade barriers on imports were introduced last year to curb Indonesia's swelling current account deficit. Jokowi also declared that state-owned enterprises should take over the natural resource industry from foreign companies, the EIU said in the report. 

In the other camp, riding high on the global right-wing tide of populist nationalism, Prabowo has continued to reinforce his strongman personality and seeks to rise to power on a nationalist platform.

Prabowo has signaled that he will double down on protectionists measures, proclaiming that Indonesia should not be a "slave to other countries."

Prabowo has promised to back local businesses over foreign investors and make Indonesia food and energy self-sufficient.

The EIU expects Jokowi to secure a second term with strong support from the House of Representatives.

An average of six March polls put support for Jokowi at 49 percent, Prabowo at 37 percent, with 14 percent undecided.

Compared to February, support for Jokowi has gone down by 10 percent and his lead has narrowed by 16 percent.