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

Media prepares to fact check debates in real time

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

From live blogs to video chyrons and tweets, media companies are introducing new ways to fact check the presidential debates in real time this year.

Between the lines: The debates themselves are likely to leave less room for live fact-checking from moderators than a traditional news interview would.

Life after Roe v. Wade

The future seems clear to both parties: The Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade in the next few years, either gradually or in one fell swoop, and the abortion wars will move to a state-by-state battle over freedom and restrictions. 

What's new: Two of the leading activists on opposite sides of the abortion debate outlined for “Axios on HBO” the next frontiers in a post-Roe v. Wade world as the balance on the Supreme Court prepares to shift.

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
2 hours ago - Economy & Business

Jerome Powell, Trump's re-election MVP

Photo illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios. Getty Images photos: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP and Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket

President Trump trails Joe Biden in most polls, has generally lower approval ratings and is behind in trust on most issues. Yet polls consistently give him an edge on the economy, which remains a top priority among voters.

Why it matters: If Trump wins re-election, it will largely be because Americans see him as the force rallying a still-strong U.S. economy, a narrative girded by skyrocketing stock prices and consistently climbing U.S. home values — but the man behind booming U.S. asset prices is really Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell.