Indonesia presidential race pits heavy metal against the general

Indonesian President Joko Widodo, left, and his challenger in the upcoming election Prabowo Subianto during their campaign rallies in Jakarta, Indonesia. (AP)
Updated 17 April 2019

Indonesia presidential race pits heavy metal against the general

  • A record 245,000 candidates are running for public office from the presidency down to local legislator positions, including an Olympic gold medallist, a pop diva, and a frontman who lost his bandmates and wife in a killer tsunami
  • Widodo’s landmark 2014 victory capped a remarkable rise for the down-to-earth outsider in a political scene dominated by dynasties from the era of Indonesia’s late dictator Suharto

JAKARTA: Indonesia’s heavy metal-loving leader Joko Widodo faces off against ex-military general Prabowo Subianto in the race to lead the world’s third-biggest democracy Wednesday, a re-run of the 2014 election contest narrowly won by Widodo.
A record 245,000 candidates are running for public office from the presidency down to local legislator positions, including an Olympic gold medallist, a pop diva, a frontman who lost his bandmates and wife in a killer tsunami and even a late dictator’s son convicted of masterminding a judge’s murder.
Widodo’s landmark 2014 victory capped a remarkable rise for the down-to-earth outsider in a political scene dominated by dynasties from the era of Indonesia’s late dictator Suharto.
A one-time furniture exporter, the 57-year-old shot to prominence when he was elected governor of the capital Jakarta in 2012 after a successful stint as mayor of his hometown Solo.
Raised in a bamboo shack in a riverside slum, his humble demeanour and love for headbangers Metallica proved a hit with voters fed up with a graft-prone elite.
But the father of three — popularly known as Jokowi — carries a mixed track record into the polls.
He championed an ambitious drive to build much-needed roads, airports and other infrastructure across the sprawling archipelago of more than 17,000 islands, including Jakarta’s first mass rapid transit system.
He also ushered in or expanded popular health and social development schemes, including cash for the rural poor.
But his rights record has come under scrutiny, with an uptick in discriminatory attacks on Indonesia’s small LGBT community during his tenure, and high-profile cases of intolerance directed at religious minority groups in the Muslim majority nation.
He has also been accused of creeping authoritarianism following arrests of opposition campaigners and a revised law that let Jakarta ban mass organizations.
Viewed as weak and out of his depth in his first year in office, Widodo consolidated power in part by appointing Suharto-era army generals with chequered pasts to key posts.
He has further isolated moderate voters by picking conservative Islamic cleric Ma’ruf Amin — known for his disparaging views of minorities — as his vice presidential nominee.
Indonesia’s reputation for tolerant Islam has come into question in recent years as religious hard-liners become increasingly vocal.
Widening inequality and a slump in the rupiah currency have sparked criticism of Widodo’s economic stewardship, despite annual growth of about five percent and low inflation.
His big-ticket infrastructure projects have also been knocked for offering little benefit to tens of millions of poor Indonesians.
Subianto lost by a whisker five years ago, cutting Widodo’s once-huge lead to just a few points by polling day.
The ex-general — and ex-husband of one Suharto’s daughters — faces another uphill battle in 2019, trailing by double digits in most opinion polls ahead of Wednesday’s vote.
Prabowo has tried and failed to win high office several times over the past 15 years, including an unsuccessful 2009 run for the vice presidency.
But his ambitions have been dogged by ties to the Suharto family and a dark past — Subianto ordered the abduction of democracy activists in the dying days of the dictator’s rule in 1998 and has been accused of committing atrocities in East Timor.
He was dismissed from the military over the kidnappings.
This time round Subianto has sought to portray himself as a defender of the nation who will boost military spending, and has accused Widodo of selling the mineral-rich country to foreign interests, including China.
He has courted hard-line Islamist groups and — despite being vastly wealthy himself — railed against the country’s elites, claiming they are exploiting the poor.
Some commentators say that the overseas-educated 67-year-old believes he is destined to lead Indonesia.
Others have questioned his hunger for the job, suggesting he is running to help his Gerindra party at the polls and to supply a platform for younger running mate Sandiaga Uno.
Uno, a 49-year-old former financier who is reported to have spent about $100 million of his own fortune on the campaign, has been popular with millennials and housewives, possibly paving the way for a tilt at Indonesia’s top job in 2024.
The dictator’s youngest son served just four years of a 15-year prison term for hiring hitmen to murder a supreme court judge who had sentenced him to jail for corruption.
Known as a playboy with a taste for flashy cars, the younger Suharto is running for a legislative seat in Papua, which his father annexed in the late 1960s following a UN-backed referendum widely criticized as a sham.
Considered one of badminton’s greatest doubles specialists, the 48-year-old and his partner Rexy Mainaky won over 30 international titles together, including a gold medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
Pop music star and actor Krisdayanti is taking her first run at public office after a successful career that saw the former teen model shoot to fame at home and also in neighboring Malaysia and Brunei.
Frontman of pop-rock band ‘Seventeen’, Ifan 17, lost his bandmates and wife when a towering tsunami slammed into a beachside resort at a concert last year on Java island.


6 dead after man opens fire in Czech hospital waiting room

Updated 10 December 2019

6 dead after man opens fire in Czech hospital waiting room

  • The attacker opened fire at people’s heads from close range
  • Police published a photo of the suspect, having withdrawn an earlier photo of a different man

PRAGUE: Six people were killed in a shooting in a hospital in the eastern Czech Republic Tuesday, the prime minister said. Police said the suspect is at large and described him as armed and dangerous.

Prime Minister Andrej Babis told Czech public television the shooting took place around 7 a.m. in a waiting room. The attacker opened fire at people’s heads from close range, Babis said.

He said he was heading for the site, at the University hospital in the eastern city of Ostrava, 350 kilometers (220 miles) east of Prague.

Police said the man left in a silver-grey Renault Laguna car and called on the public not to try to stop him.

Police published a photo of the suspect, having withdrawn an earlier photo of a different man. They said that man was now considered to be a witness.

Video footage and pictures published by public radio showed police arresting a person at the site but that person did not appear to be the shooting suspect.

Officials say people have been evacuated from the clinic. Police are boosting security across the country.