Across the planet, the political establishment and their mainstream media supporters are being disrupted. While populist revolts were bubbling beneath the surface for years, the election of Donald J. Trump supercharged and empowered opposition to the ruling elite and set in motion a worldwide reset of our politics.
The next bout in the international struggle against the establishment is playing out tomorrow in Indonesia. Incumbent President Joko Widodo ran a pseudo-Obama campaign of “change and hope” in 2014, riding the then-dominant political strategy to victory in the world’s third largest democracy.
Widodo now faces a challenge to his failed regime from Trump-like challenger, Prabowo Subianto. There’s lots to challenge.
The economy has been stagnant. Corruption is rife. And Widodo has morphed into the very thing he ran against in 2014 – a corrupt potentate interested only in enriching his cronies and maintaining his power.
Worse, Widodo has introduced into the mix the People’s Republic of China. Whereas his predecessors resisted the invasion of Chinese capital and personnel, Widodo has facilitated China gaining a historic stronghold in this archipelago nation of more than 17,000 islands.
While his detractors have yet to produce proof that Widodo has been personally compensated and compromised through infamous Chinese government payoffs, the invasion from the mainland has severely unsettled his political coalition.
Further complicating matters for the incumbent is his inability to deal with religious intolerance in this largest Muslim nation.
While Widodo tries to use the specter of Islamic fundamentalism to his advantage, he is undercut by his own missteps and those of his followers. The world continues to reel over the pernicious jailing in Widodo’s political base province of former Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, an ethnic Chinese and a Christian. Purnama has been imprisoned only because he is a Christian, unnerving the very people who helped elect Widodo.
Inexplicably, Widodo poured gasoline on the fire of religious tension by choosing radical former Islamic cleric Maruf Amin as his running mate. Amin’s harsh Islamic approach has given pause to Indonesia’s traditional allies, raising concerns among Jakarta’s business community whether Widodo is capable of reinvigorating this troubled nation.
In the last election, Widodo won with a coalition of young people, liberals and a lot of women and non-Muslim voters, but his failure to deliver even moderate reforms and the combination of rampant corruption and a stagnating economy has left many of his former supporters disillusioned and choosing to abstain this time around. The movement against Widodo within his former base is so strong that they even have a name for their abstaining vote: golput.
Even in the Widodo super-stronghold of Sulawesi, his core supporters are proclaiming that they are “golput,” the name being derived from the blank part of the ballot that these voters intend to mark.
With Widodo’s polling numbers diving, and with his opponent Probowo surging, Widodo’s party seems to be borrowing another page from the American Democratic Party.
In the last few days, Indonesians were shocked to find that 17.5 million fake voter registrations were submitted and approved by Widodo government forces. This is almost 10% of the electorate. Unfortunately for Widodo, his party thugs were not as devious as their American counterparts. The fake registrations all bore the same birthdates! Must have been quite a busy day at the Jakarta hospital – or more likely at the party headquarters for Widodo!
While BirthdateGate seems to be the most comical aspect of the Widodo circus, the most predictable – at least for Americans – is the approach by the mainstream American media to this race. Not wanting to abandon their faux Indonesian Obama, the New York Times has been assaulting challenger Prabowo as the real elite candidate. Sound familiar? They used the same attack against then-candidate Donald J. Trump.
Based on polling of the past few days, they are in for the same depressing surprise – assuming Widodo and his gang don’t steal the election from the Indonesian people.