A love for running marathons and playing basketball is already making Sandiaga Uno, Prabowo Subianto's running mate in next year's presidential election, a hit both offline and on social media. (Reuters Photo/Beawiharta)

Vice-Presidential Contender Sandiaga Uno Keeps 'Eye on the Ball' of Economic Reform

BY :KANUPRIYA KAPOOR

SEPTEMBER 28, 2018

Jakarta. A love for running marathons and playing basketball is already making Sandiaga Uno, Prabowo Subianto's running mate in next year's presidential election, a hit both offline and on social media.

The 49-year-old private equity executive plans to use this popularity to tackle issues weighing on Southeast Asia's biggest economy, including a plunging currency and "unnecessary" government spending.

The pair is up against the popular incumbent Joko "Jokowi" Widodo in the race to lead the world's third-largest democracy. Both sides are pushing a nationalistic economic agenda, but issues of religion and ethnicity are expected to feature prominently in the six-month campaign.

Dressed in a breezy stub-collared, pale blue shirt, khaki pants, with thick-rimmed glasses and sandals, Uno cuts a starkly different image from Widodo's running mate – a septuagenarian conservative Muslim cleric – and one that has proved popular with young voters and female voters.

"Millennials are flaky, and we have a tough task in convincing them," he said in an interview at his campaign headquarters in Central Jakarta.

"We need to bring relevant issues that are attractive enough for millennials, so they show up to vote."

The opposition has zeroed in on a 9 percent plunge in the rupiah this year to highlight what Sandiaga called an "absence of strong government."

"We are going into turbulent economic times... We need strong leaders with a firm grip on issues like jobs and prices," he said.

"We need to send the right signals to the domestic scene and the outside world that Indonesia is taking control of its own economy."

Opinion polls give Jokowi a double-digit lead over Prabowo, but some show the gap narrowing.

Criticizing a cornerstone of Jokowi's term, which has seen a building boom of roads, airports, railways and a dramatic slashing of red tape, Sandiaga said Prabowo would roll out "deep structural reforms" with spending cuts, tax reform, and giving the private sector a bigger share of infrastructure development.

"What we need is smaller...stronger government," he said.

He added that he and Prabowo would prioritize job creation, investment and export industries if voted into office.

Prabowo and Sandiaga hail from elite military and business circles, respectively, but neither has an extended track record in elected office, save the latter's past 10 months as Jakarta deputy governor.

Sandiaga won that position after a controversial race that opened deep religious and ethnic divisions in the world's largest Muslim-majority country. His team, which was backed by Prabowo, was riding a wave of mass Islamist protests that brought down then-governor, Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, an ethnic Chinese Christian.

Both Prabowo and Sandiaga maintain links with hardline Islamist groups, some of whom have been known to intimidate minorities.

Rights activists have raised concerns about a recent rise in hardline Islamism that they say threatens Indonesia's long-standing reputation for pluralism and tolerance for minority religions and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. But LGBT rights are unlikely to feature prominently in the campaign.

Sandiaga said his side would maintain a focus on economic issues and was unlikely to be influenced by conservative Islamic groups.

"We have big data to show people are tired of divisive campaigns," he said. "We think people will vote based on economic issues... We don't want to take our eyes off the ball."

Reuters

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