JAKARTA (BLOOMBERG) – Nothing sells like economic nationalism in Indonesia’s election season. Facing a challenge from a self-proclaimed nationalist, President Joko Widodo has used speeches after his nomination for April’s vote to tout his success in wresting control of the nation’s prized natural resources from foreign companies.
Now the campaign in the lead up to the April 2019 poll is expected to develop into a battle built around economic nationalism. While it may risk a retreat by foreign investors from South-east Asia’s biggest economy, it’s still likely to be a vote winner, according to analysts.
Widodo, known as Jokowi, has carried forward the resource nationalism championed by his predecessor Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono by taking steps to take back assets managed by multinationals such as Freeport-McMoRan Inc., Total SA and Chevron Corp. His government recently ordered all oil producers to sell their crude to state refiner PT Pertamina as it sought to cut imports.
Jokowi is pitted against Prabowo Subianto, a former general and the chief of the opposition Gerindra party, in a rematch of the 2014 elections. As Jokowi struggles to meet his 7 percent growth target and defend the rupiah that has slumped to the lowest level since the Asian financial crisis in 1997-98, he’s likely to raise the pitch of nationalist rhetoric.
“We maintain our sovereignty, we guard our natural resources,” the president said. “We want to use that as much as possible for the prosperity of the Indonesian people.”
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