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Indonesian President Joko Widodo at a campaign rally in Ngawi, Indonesia. Photo: Juni Kriswanto/AFP/Getty Images

Ahead of Indonesia’s elections on April 17, sitting president Joko Widodo has a lead of double digits in many polls over his challenger, Prabowo Subianto.

Why it matters: Until recently, Indonesia has been a model of democratization. Though those gains have slipped under Jokowi — as the incumbent is also known — and Islamist groups have gained some power, Prabowo could pose a greater risk to the country's fragile progress.

Context: Jokowi won a hard-fought race against Prabowo in 2014 and enjoys greater popularity than his rival, despite a mixed record in his first term on critical economic issues.

  • Prabowo is a skilled speaker, but he struggles to connect with working class voters. His campaign appears to lack the resources it had in the past and hasn't benefited from any dramatic, game-changing events.
  • Although Prabowo made up ground in the last days of the 2014 race, and undecided voters might still swing his way, his current polling deficit is a steep hill to climb.

Background: Jokowi has rolled out policies that help poorer Indonesians and unveiled plans designed to expand food aid and other social welfare programs.

  • But his administration has bounced between combating monopolies and embracing statist economics — reforms investors desperately seek — and coddling Indonesia’s entrenched business interests.
  • Widespread graft and patronage also constrain the country’s economic potential.

Meanwhile, Islamist groups have gained influence in recent years. They have the staying power to undermine the country’s secular traditions and foster growing intolerance. Islamist-linked terror attacks remain a serious threat as well.

The bottom line: If Jokowi cruises to reelection, he might have the political capital to reform the economy, reduce the power of Islamists and fulfill earlier promises to fight corruption, improve the economy and promote human rights.

Joshua Kurlantzick is senior fellow for Southeast Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Go deeper

Tech scrambles to derail inauguration threats

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Tech companies are sharing more information with law enforcement in a frantic effort to prevent violence around the inauguration, after the government was caught flat-footed by the Capitol siege.

Between the lines: Tech knows it will be held accountable for any further violence that turns out to have been planned online if it doesn't act to stop it.

Dave Lawler, author of World
5 hours ago - World

Uganda's election: Museveni declared winner, Wine claims fraud

Wine rejected the official results of the election. Photo: Sumy Sadruni/AFP via Getty

Yoweri Museveni was declared the winner of a sixth presidential term on Saturday, with official results giving him 59% to 35% for Bobi Wine, the singer-turned-opposition leader.

Why it matters: This announcement was predictable, as the election was neither free nor fair and Museveni had no intention of surrendering power after 35 years. But Wine — who posed a strong challenged to Museveni, particularly in urban areas, and was beaten and arrested during the campaign — has said he will present evidence of fraud. The big question is whether he will mobilize mass resistance in the streets.

Off the Rails

Episode 1: A premeditated lie lit the fire

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. Axios takes you inside the collapse of a president with a special series.

Episode 1: Trump’s refusal to believe the election results was premeditated. He had heard about the “red mirage” — the likelihood that early vote counts would tip more Republican than the final tallies — and he decided to exploit it.

"Jared, you call the Murdochs! Jason, you call Sammon and Hemmer!”