Balance of Power: Will-He-or-Won’t-He Has Indonesia on Edge

Jokowi Says He's Concentrating on the Job

The world’s most populous Muslim nation and its third-largest democracy soon kicks off a lengthy and potentially divisive campaign for president. But there’s a question as to whether the man most likely to win will even run.

Indonesian President “Jokowi” is popular and being urged by four parties to contest the vote in April 2019. Even so, he was noncommittal about his plans in an interview with Bloomberg.

Jokowi is the first president of Southeast Asia’s largest economy to come from outside the political elite. He’s presided over Indonesia’s return to investment grade, cut red tape and built roads and airports to connect his country of 17,000 islands. Despite pressure to protect local businesses, Jokowi says he’s courting foreign investment.

Jokowi wouldn’t be a shoo-in. He could be vulnerable to fresh questions about his loyalty to Islam, having recently banned a hard-line Islamic group. And he’s struggled to cut living costs and create jobs.

For some at least, the biggest risk is that he doesn’t run at all. That could open the way for someone like Suharto-era general Prabowo Subianto, who has a strong protectionist streak and could turn Indonesia inward.

Joko Widodo in Silangit, North Sumatra.
Photographer: Dimas Ardian/Bloomberg

Dear readers, watch out for a special Japanese elections edition of Balance of Power on Sunday. Also please send today’s newsletter to any interested friends so they can sign up, and follow Bloomberg Politics on Twitter and Facebook for more.

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And finally...  Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s wife and possible successor, Grace, is no stranger to controversy. A month after she was charged with assaulting a South African model partying with her sons comes the news she’s suing a former diamond dealer over the failure to supply a $1.35 million, 100-carat ring for her 20th wedding anniversary. When she asked for a refund, only $120,000 was returned, according to court documents. In a country facing economic collapse, the case is likely to enhance her reputation for extravagant living that’s prompted many Zimbabweans to dub her “Gucci Grace.”

Robert and Grace Mugabe during a ruling party youth rally at Rudhaka Stadium in June. 
Photographer: Jekesai Njikizana/AFP via Getty Images

— With assistance by Kathleen Hunter, and Chris Fournier

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