Opinion polls put Indonesian president on course for election victory

Indonesia's presidential candidate Joko Widodo greets his opponent Prabowo Subianto as Head of Indonesia's Election Comission Arief Budiman smiles during a televised debate in Jakarta, Indonesia, March 30, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 03 April 2019

Opinion polls put Indonesian president on course for election victory

  • Supporters of Widodo expressed fears that if Subianto won the presidency he would support the establishment of an Islamic caliphate and change the country’s ideology

JAKARTA: Indonesian President Joko Widodo is on course to win the country’s April 17 election, according to the latest opinion polls.
Widodo had on Tuesday opened up a clear lead on his rival, former three-star general Prabowo Subianto, a survey by private pollster Indo Barometer revealed.
Out of 1,200 people questioned, 50.8 percent indicated they would vote for the president and his running mate, 76-year-old Muslim cleric Ma’ruf Amin.
Subianto and his vice-presidential candidate, tycoon-turned-politician Sandiaga Salahuddin Uno, 49, secured 32 percent support, while 17.2 percent of respondents abstained or were undecided.
Indo Barometer researcher Hadi Suprapto Rusli said Widodo’s record since taking office in October 2014 coupled with his Islamic credentials would be a key factor in him securing election victory.
“This survey found that a majority of Muslim voters think Widodo is a better representation of the Muslim aspirations compared to Subianto,” said Rusli.
He added that Widodo’s partnering with Amin was a Muslim “vote-getter” and had helped to buffer attacks against him and his government over policies not seen by some as being friendly toward Muslims.
Rusli told Arab News that the poll also showed that some of the president’s pro-Muslim programs, such as entrepreneurship empowerment for Islamic boarding-school students, had proved popular with Indonesians.
Supporters of Widodo expressed fears that if Subianto won the presidency he would support the establishment of an Islamic caliphate and change the country’s ideology.
However, Subianto rubbished the claims during a presidential debate last Saturday, in which he and Widodo presented their visions on the country’s ideology, defense, and foreign policy.
“This doesn’t make sense,” said Subianto. “My mother was a Christian. At 18 years old, I put my life on the line (by joining the military) to fight for Pancasila (the state ideology). I bet on my life for this republic. How can I be accused of changing the Pancasila, it’s so cruel?”
A separate survey of 1,102 voters, by pollster Roy Morgan, showed similar results with Widodo getting 56.5 percent backing in March - down 0.5 percent on February figures - compared to Subianto’s 43.5 percent, which was up 0.5 percent from February.
Michele Levine, CEO of Roy Morgan, said Tuesday: “Support for Subianto is strongest in Indonesia’s capital city of Jakarta, the surrounding provinces of West Java and Banten, along with the province of Southern Sumatra. Widodo is strongest in Central Java, Yogyakarta, East Java and Bali.”
The latest opinion polls are likely to bolster confidence for Widodo and his supporters, after a survey last month by the research and development division of Indonesia’s biggest newspaper, Kompas, showed the president with 49.2 percent backing and his rival on 37.4 percent, with 13 percent of those quizzed undecided. This was a red alert for an incumbent to have less than 50 percent electability.
This month’s elections, in which Indonesians will also vote for lawmakers at regional and national levels, will be a rematch of the 2014 presidential poll which Widodo won by a narrow 6 percent margin.
After almost five years in office, many of Widodo’s supporters have indicated they may abstain in the upcoming election in protest over unfulfilled campaign promises, which included a vow to eradicate corruption among prominent politicians with the most recent arrest of an Islam-based party, which is part of Widodo’s coalition.


Protests flare as India’s parliament set to vote on citizenship bill

Updated 4 min 38 sec ago

Protests flare as India’s parliament set to vote on citizenship bill

  • Police in Assam’s main city of Guwahati used water cannons and tear gas as they clashed with protesters
  • The US Commission on International Religious Freedom said on Monday that Washington should consider sanctions against Shah, a close associate of Modi
NEW DELHI: India’s ruling Hindu nationalists pushed for final parliamentary approval on Wednesday for a law that critics say undermines the country’s secular constitution by granting citizenship to non-Muslim minorities from three neighboring countries.

Having obtained assent from the lower house of parliament a day earlier, Home Minister Amit Shah tabled the Citizenship Amendment Bill in the upper house and a vote is expected late on Wednesday.

Opposition parties, minority groups, academics and a US federal panel have contested the proposed law, which would for the first time provide a legal route to Indian citizenship based on religion, calling it discriminatory against Muslims.

The bill seeks to give citizenship to Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jains, Parsis and Sikhs, who fled Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan before 2015.

Protests against the bill turned violent on Wednesday in India’s ethnically diverse northeastern region, with the army deploying troops in Tripura state and putting reinforcements on standby in neighboring Assam, where police battled thousands of protesters.

Police in Assam’s main city of Guwahati used water cannons and tear gas as they clashed with protesters, who had blocked roads with flaming tires.

“The bill will take away our rights, language and culture with millions of Bangladeshis getting citizenship,” said Gitimoni Dutta, a college student at the protest.

Despite Shah’s assurances that safeguards will be put in place, people in Assam and surrounding states fear an influx of settlers could lead to a competition for land and upset the region’s demographic balance.

In northern India, thousands of students at Aligarh Muslim University began a hunger strike in protest.

Some opposition Muslim politicians have argued that the bill is targeted against the community, accusing the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi for trying to render them “stateless.”

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom said on Monday that Washington should consider sanctions against Shah, a close associate of Modi, if India adopts the legislation.

Introducing the bill in the upper house, Shah defended his government’s move, saying the new law only sought to help minorities persecuted in Muslim-majority countries contiguous with India.

“For India’s Muslims, there is nothing to worry about, nothing to debate. They are citizens, and will remain citizens,” Shah said.

Unlike the lower house, where Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has a clear majority, the ruling party will likely find it more challenging to push the bill through the upper house, as it is unclear whether it can garner enough support from regional parties.