TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: October 16

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Accountability in education is essential and non-negotiable, and testing works. Just not in reading.

By Robert Pondiscio in Flypaper from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute

2. Carbon capture technology is costly, but could be an interim solution for climate change. And a carbon tax could pay for it.

By David Biello in Yale Environment 360

3. Immersive public art is improving lives and safety in one Detroit neighborhood — and serving as a model for other communities.

By Anna Clark in High Ground News

4. Presidential pool reporters are circulating their own news reports to bypass pressure from the White House Press Office.

By Paul Farhi in the Washington Post

5. Unregulated campaign cash and elected judges together undermine the independence of our judiciary.

By Norm Ornstein in The Atlantic

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME 2014 Election

Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu Gives President Obama a Passing Grade

“I think he’s had some really tough issues to deal with,” Sen. Landrieu said

On a scale of one to ten, Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu said Tuesday that she rates Obama at “six to seven,” giving the president a passing grade even as vulnerable members of the Democratic Party work to distance themselves from the President as Election Day draws nearer.

During the candidates joint Senate debate in Louisiana, all three candidates for Senate—Democratic incumbent Landrieu, Republican challengers Rep. Bill Cassidy and retired Air Force colonel Rob Maness—were asked how they would rate both President Obama and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. Obama, who has about an 38.7% approval rating in Louisiana, according to the Huffington Post pollster, was ranked zero by both Republican candidates.

Landrieu, however, was willing to cut him some slack. “I think he’s had some really tough issues to deal with,” Sen. Landrieu said.

Jindal fared better between the two Republicans, gaining a seven rating from Cassidy and a five rating from Maness. Landrieu gave Jindal a three.

The candidates sparred over issues like Common Core and health care coverage throughout the debate, with the Republican candidates largely focusing on Landrieu’s record of voting with the President. Because the race is split between three candidates, the contest may not be decided in November. If no candidate gets more than 50% of the vote on election day, a runoff election will be held on December 6.

TIME 2016 Election

George W. Bush Thinks His Brother, Jeb, Wants to Be President

Key Speakers At The World Business Forum New York 2013
Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida, speaks at the World Business Forum in New York, U.S., on Oct. 1, 2013. Peter Foley—Bloomberg/Getty Images

Could there be another Bush vs. Clinton presidential race?

Former President George W. Bush said in an interview that aired Thursday that he thinks his younger brother, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, wants to be president in 2016.

“He and I had a conversation,” Bush told Fox and Friends. “I of course was pushing him to run for president. He of course was saying, ‘I haven’t made up my mind.'”

Bush added, “I think he wants to be president.”

There has been significant speculation within the Republican Party as to whether the younger Bush, 61, will run for the office that his brother and father have previously held. It could potentially create another Clinton vs. Bush race for the White House if former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was to also announce her candidacy.

[CNN]

TIME New Zealand

New Zealand Set to Vote in General Elections Marred by Cybercontroversies

Journalist and author Glenn Greenwald, left, and Kim Dotcom attend a political forum at Town Hall in Auckland, New Zealand Monday, Sept. 15, 2014.
Journalist and author Glenn Greenwald, left, and Kim Dotcom attend a political forum at in Auckland on Sept. 15, 2014 Brett Phibbs—New Zealand Herald/AP

Is the Kiwi nation becoming a bastion of Internet-generation politics?

The climate enveloping New Zealand’s parliamentary elections on Saturday could be branded anything but politics as usual.

The vote marks an end to a campaign season marred by covert Internet bullying, revelations by hackers, and that could see Kim Dotcom, a cyberoutlaw wanted by the FBI, voted into the House of Representatives.

Not even two months ago, incumbent Prime Minister John Key looked set for a comfortable third victory, but then a book release upset the remote island nation’s political equilibrium. In Dirty Politics, investigative journalist Nicky Hager revealed how top members of Key’s cabinet had spread personal information about their opponents to a vitriolic right-wing blogger. Whale Oil, as the blogger is known, then went on to fuel online hatred directed at certain public servants, some of whom ended up receiving death threats from Internet commenters.

Hager claims that the material exposes “the covert attack machine run by the National Party and its allies,” the Guardian reports, and his oeuvre has completely taken over New Zealand’s political discussion ever since. Even though Key was not directly implicated, he’s been widely berated for his feeble response, having deferred sacking those central to the scandal and denouncing Hager as a “screaming left-wing conspiracy theorist.”

Key also lashed out at the fact that Hager’s information was based on personal electronic communications allegedly retrieved by illicit means. “I think there’s a real risk that a hacker, and people with a left-wing agenda, are trying to take an election off New Zealanders,” he said.

That may not necessarily be the case, since Key and his National Party are still looking robust in the polls. Still, there’s a certain sense of the Kiwi elections are taking the shape of a cyberelectoral soap opera.

In the opposite corner stands the 6-ft. 7-in. figure of Kim Dotcom, who made a fortune from his file-sharing website Megaupload, but also drew the ire of the collective Hollywood community and FBI, who wanted him held accountable for infringing on copyright laws. After leading a lavish playboy lifestyle and being the subject of a dramatic 2012 police raid on his estate, German-born Dotcom has turned to politics. The 40-year-old has proclaimed that his Internet Party is the beginning of a global youth movement fighting for expanded freedom and privacy on the web. He is contesting the elections together with the Maori left-wing Mana party, and they look likely to win seats in parliament. Dotcom has also managed to attract international attention to his cause.

On Monday, Dotcom shared an Auckland stage with three other prime U.S. security targets — Glenn Greenwald, Julian Assange and Edward Snowden (the latter two via video link) — for a political forum named “Moment of Truth,” where the trio outlined how Key’s government had worked to implement a mass-surveillance program on its citizens.

Some have tried to downplay both the book release and the forum as spruiking, seeing as both took place so close to the vote. Whale Oil, whose real name is Cameron Slater, is even claiming that Hager’s source is none other than Dotcom himself. However, Hager says he would have “run a mile” if Dotcom had approached him with the leaked material.

“When a source is anonymous, like this person is, it’s possible to imagine all sorts of creepy things about them,” Hager told the Guardian. “But it is an intelligent, thoughtful person, I’m pleased to say — a nonpartisan person who I’m very comfortable working with.”

To date, Dirty Politics is Hager’s best-selling book. It remains to be seen what impact it will have on the elections, and to what extent New Zealand is turning into a bastion of politics for the Internet generation.

More than 3 million registered voters will elect 120 members to New Zealand’s House of Representatives on Saturday, with lawmakers chosen from 71 single-member constituencies and the remainder from party lists.

TIME republicans

Women Find GOP ‘Intolerant,’ Report Says

The Republican Party's elephant symbol is seen on display on October 24, 2000 at the Republican campaign headquarters in El Paso, Texas.
The Republican Party's elephant symbol is seen on display on October 24, 2000 at the Republican campaign headquarters in El Paso, Texas. Joe Raedle—Getty Images

A gender gap persists

Female voters have sharply negative views of the Republican Party, according to a new report of internal polling done by major GOP groups, the latest sign of the gender gap facing the party as it tries to recapture the White House in 2016.

Politico, which obtained a copy of the Republican polling, reports it found that many women consider the GOP “intolerant” and “stuck in the past.” The Republican groups that commissioned the polling, the Karl Rove-led Crossroads GPS and the American Action Network, hosted eight focus groups over the summer and survey about 800 registered women voters. Pollsters found that 49% of women have an unfavorable view of Republicans, while just 39% feel the same about Democrats, Politico reports. The establishment-friendly GOP groups are warning that Republican elected officials “fail to speak to women in the different circumstances in which they live” They’re advising officials to champion equal pay policies, and suggesting Republicans change the way they handle the issue of abortion: “Deal honestly with any disagreement on abortion, then move to other issues,” the report says.

Republicans are expected to easily keep their majority in the House and may even recapture the majority in the Senate during the coming midterm elections. But the gender gap will be more troublesome in the 2016 presidential election, especially if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee.

[Politico]

TIME Japan

Japanese PM Abe’s Security-Policy Shift Blamed for Local Poll Loss

Japan's PM Abe delivers an address to both houses of parliament in Australia's House of Representatives chamber at Parliament House in Canberra
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe delivers an address to both houses of parliament in Australia's House of Representatives chamber at Parliament House in Canberra July 8, 2014. Lukas Coch—Reuters

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe faces backlash just weeks after reversing Japan’s security policy

The first signs of a backlash against Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have appeared since he dramatically changed the country’s defense policy earlier this month.

Abe’s party, the Liberal Democrats, lost a gubernatorial election in Shiga prefecture in what is perceived as a protest vote against the July 1 ending of the country’s ban on “collective self-defense,” reports Reuters.

The pacifist policy has defined postwar Japan, but Abe argued that the nation needs a new security policy in the current political climate, hinting at territorial disputes with China. In response, however, voter support for the 59-year-old Premier has already dropped below 50%, according to a recent public-opinion survey.

Abe is not up for re-election until 2016, but three other prefectures will elect governors later this year. Japan will also have several more polls next April.

The ballot also revealed divisions within the Japanese electorate regarding the East Asian nation’s nuclear policy following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear meltdown.

Many voters in Shiga prefecture are wary of the Prime Minister’s plans to restart nuclear reactors in neighboring Fukui prefecture. By contrast, Shiga’s new governor, Democratic Party member Taizo Mikazuki, called for Japan to reduce its reliance on nuclear power.

[Reuters]

TIME France

France’s Far Right Could Benefit From Sarkozy’s Legal Woes

Nicolas Sarkozy
Sarkozy's legal cloud puts his political future in doubt Kenzo Tribouillard—AFP/Getty Images

The former French President is under investigation, putting his political future under a cloud—and giving Marine Le Pen an opening

Even in a country where political scandals are a constant, the French were stunned to see their former President Nicolas Sarkozy hauled into a police station on July 1 for 15 hours of interrogation. Sarkozy was brought before judges well after midnight that day, where he was formally placed under investigation for corruption and influence peddling, relating to suspicions that Sarkozy had tried to wrest information from a senior judge about a legal case being built against him. An exhausted-looking Sarkozy was shown on television in the back of a police car, clearly shaken by his ordeal. “Is this normal?” Sarkozy asked in a national television and radio interview on the evening of July 2—his first such Q&A in two years—that had millions of viewers spellbound. “I’m profoundly shocked at what has happened.”

But besides his shock, Sarkozy, who lost his reelection bid to President François Hollande in 2012, might already be plotting his next political move—a move that could involve casting himself as the victim rather than the villain in his latest legal drama. As the French absorbed the newest accusations against Sarkozy, the ex-president has emerged in this week’s blanket media coverage as a lone wolf up against the establishment. That’s an ironic twist for a politician whose image as the consummate insider partly led to his reelection defeat. Two days after Sarkozy’s 15-hour police grilling, Sarkozy watchers say they believe he has several options ahead—not all of them bad. “He could become chief of the opposition in fighting both Hollande and the judges,” Christophe Barbier, editor of the French newsweekly L’Express, told TIME on Thursday. “That seems the most probable solution.”

Sarkozy has faced so many investigations since winning the presidency in 2007 that he and his lawyer had tried to avoid surveillance by using prepaid telephones registered in other people’s names. Police tapped those phones, however, leading them to focus on whether the two men tried to wrangle details about the case against Sarkozy from a top appeals-court judge—the subject of his grilling on Tuesday. The charges could lead judges to bring the case to trial, with Sarkozy and his lawyer Thierry Herzog potentially facing a five-year sentence and a $680,000 fine if found guilty. To say the least, that would hugely complicate Sarkozy’s ambitions for a comeback against the beleaguered President Hollande in the 2017 elections.

Even if the former president beats this new investigation, however, it is not his only legal battle. Last year, investigators finally dropped charges alleging that Sarkozy took advantage of the aging billionaire L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt by taking millions of euros from her to fund his 2007 presidential bid. But they are still probing allegations that Sarkozy sought some $68 million for his 2007 campaign from then-Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi—the investigation in which he is now suspected of interfering with the senior judge.

But this week’s grilling cuts to the heart of a deeper issue, and it is one that rankles French voters: whether the alleged behavior of Sarkozy was just business as usual for the country’s famously cloistered elites. It could be “simply part of the bullying tactics of people in power that have been tolerated so far,” says Agnès Poirier, author and columnist for the political magazine Marianne, writing in the Guardian on Wednesday. Sarkozy, says Poirier, has regularly demanded information from officials about investigations against him, including once calling the head of the French intelligence service. “If nothing else, this new episode is shedding some more light on “‘le système Sarkozy,'” Poirier said.

Still, Sarkozy is hardly ready to hang it up politically. After laying low for Hollande’s first year in office, he has spent months angling for a return, and has said he intends deciding his next moves—including a possible presidential bid—by summer’s end. Enraged and combative on television on Wednesday night, Sarkozy nonetheless worked hard to dismantle the image of himself as someone accustomed to special access. He called the new charges “grotesque,” but quickly added, “I’m not demanding any privilege.” His voice dropping to a low rasp, he said, “If I have made mistakes I will face the consequences.”

Yet some of the consequences of Sarkozy’s legal battles are already contributing to the deep disarray of French politics. Sarkozy fares much better than President Hollande in most polls, and the former president is popular among many UMP voters, with supporters mobbing him on the sidewalk after his interrogation on Tuesday. Yet the UMP is locked in its own struggle for power. Jean-Francois Copé was appointed as leader only after bitter infighting. Since he resigned in May three former prime ministers have been running the party in an awkward, interim arrangement, as they wait to see what Sarkozy will do.

In fact, there is only one clear winner in this political upheaval: Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Front, which won the most French votes in the European Union elections in May, and which grabbed nearly one-quarter of the votes in France’s municipal elections last March, largely by slicing off support by disaffected UMP-ers. Pitching the two major parties as corrupt and ineffectual, Le Pen has soared in the polls. She told TIME in May that she believes she is headed for the top, that she intends running for president and that she believes that “the National Front will be in power within 10 years.”

Barbier, editor of L’Express, believes that much will depend on whether Sarkozy can cast himself as a new man: calm and reflective, rather than the volatile, temperamental man the French remember from his time in office. “If he is more calm, more tranquil, if he goes into it in that style,” Sarkozy could perhaps prevail, Barbier says. He believes Sarkozy’s first move might be to take back control of the UMP, and knock it into shape, ready for the presidential race in 2017.

Sarkozy’s makeover might already have begun. After a mostly combative TV interview on Wednesday night the former president struck a more conciliatory tone afterwards, tweeting: “I love my country passionately and I am not a man to be discouraged.” His supporters hope that passion and tenacity will be enough to carry their man through.

TIME 2014 Election

More Bad News for Democrats in 2014 Battleground States

A new survey of likely voters in 12 key Senate races shows the electorate continues to skew Republican

A new survey has more bad news for Democrats running in key battleground states this November.

The poll by Resurgent Republic and Democracy Corps, Republican and Democratic research firms, respectively, found that President Barack Obama’s approval rating in 12 states with the most competitive Senate races is only 38%—3 points lower than his national approval number.

Recent headlines surrounding the Bowe Bergdahl prisoner swap, the Veterans Affairs and IRS scandals, and the initially botched rollout of the health care reform law haven’t helped: 57% of voters consider them to be “real problems that raise serious doubts about the competence of the Obama Administration.”

“That is a problem for the Obama Administration,” Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster who worked on the survey, told reporters Thursday. “But it is a problem for the Democrats running for reelection in these battleground states because the reputation of the President always overshadows midterm elections.”

While the slew of scandals may not drive voters to the poll, Ayres said, the results make it difficult for incumbent Democrats to stand with the President on key issue.

And Republicans have the upper hand when it comes to party trust on key issues, according to the survey: 50% of all voters favor Republicans’ handling of foreign policy, 16 percentage points higher than their trust in Democrats. The split is less dramatic on the economy, with 47% of voters trusting Republicans, compared to 37% trusting Democrats. Among independents, who often cast the key swing votes in close races, 48% say they trust Republicans handling of the economy while only 28% trust Democrats.

Even on health care, Republicans are favored, albeit slightly: 45% of all voters trust Republicans to handle health care and 41% of voters trust Democrats.

The problem for Democrats is more their weakness than Republicans’ strength.

“There is enormous frustration… for Congress in general,” Ayres said. “But the Republican leaders in the House are not on the ballot in these… battleground states.

“The playing field,” Ayres added, “looks more promising for Republicans than any time in recent memory.”

TIME Congress

Raul Labrador Running for Majority Leader

Raul Labrador
Rep. Raul Labrador of Idaho, is interviewed by Roll Call in his Longworth Building office on February 4, 2014. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call) Tom Williams—CQ Roll Call/Getty Images

The Idaho Tea Party favorite would challenge Whip Kevin McCarthy

Idaho Republican Raul Labrador is running for Majority Leader next week, he announced Friday. The move establishes him as a Tea Party rival to Whip Kevin McCarthy, the establishment favorite.

“I was stunned when Eric Cantor lost his primary election earlier this week,” Labrador said in a statement. Eric is a good friend and I have tremendous respect for him. But the message from Tuesday is clear – Americans are looking for a change in the status quo.”

His entry shakes up a race where in the last 24 hours both of McCarthy’s top rivals have dropped out, leaving McCarthy unopposed.

Labrador is popular with the 170-member conservative Republican Study Committee and would represent the Tea Party alterative to McCarthy. Though McCarthy has bragged to colleagues that he has a majority of the 240-member conference sewn up, the ballot is secret and many in the conference have wanted to see greater Tea Party representation in leadership.

The special election, to be held June 19, will replace McCarthy’s mentor Eric Cantor, who lost his primary to a Tea Party insurgent on Tuesday.

If elected, Labrador, 46, would be the first Hispanic majority leader, the first Mormon majority leader and the first majority leader from Idaho. He also hails from a solid Red State, which is important to some members who have complained that most of the leadership comes from Blue or Purple States. Labrador’s rise would be even more meteoric than McCarthy’s, as he was only elected to Congress in 2010.

TIME Asia

Here’s Why Some Indonesians Are Spooked by This Presidential Contender

Retired general Prabowo Subianto rides a horse at a stadium in Jakarta during a campaign rally of the Gerindra party on March 23, 2014 Kyodo / AP

Prabowo Subianto is vying to become President of the world's most populous Muslim nation. But many feel he has yet to adequately explain rights abuses that took place when he was head of the country's special forces 16 years ago

Some Indonesians refuse to forget. It’s been 16 years since retired general Suharto relinquished power, but relatives of those who perished or disappeared under his oppressive rule continue to stage protests at Freedom Square in the capital Jakarta every Thursday. Maria Katarina Sumarsih has only missed 12 such gatherings over the past eight years. Her son, a humanitarian volunteer during the 1998 student uprising, was shot dead when he attempted to tend to a wounded protester. Sumarsih is still waiting for justice to be meted out to those responsible.

“Indonesia is the third biggest democracy in the world, but I and all my friends here feel we’ve been abandoned,” she says, adding that she’s afraid the situation could get worse. “If Prabowo becomes President, the population should be prepared to become victims of human-rights violations again.”

Indonesia has come a long way since Suharto. The military has been pushed out of the political scene, the freedoms of press and speech have vastly improved, and July 9 will mark the first time the country replaces one directly elected President with another. For human-rights advocates, however, a huge question mark hangs over the head of one of the leading candidates, Prabowo Subianto.

Toward the end of Suharto’s rule, military units abducted and tortured 23 democracy activists, 13 of whom have not been seen since. Riots followed, leading to over a thousand deaths and scores of rapes. One of the men accused of having orchestrated these abuses is Prabowo — then commander of the special forces.

If Indonesia has come far since Suharto’s rule, so has Prabowo. When Suharto fell in May 1998, Prabowo was head of the army strategic-reserve command, but quickly found himself discredited and discharged from the military, upon which he went into self-imposed exile. Today, he’s refashioned himself as a decisive political leader, the champion of rich and poor alike, and a well-oiled campaign has catapulted him to social-media fame, with a Facebook following that trails only the likes of Barack Obama and Narendra Modi. While Prabowo has admitted to abducting nine activists in 1998, he denies wrongdoing, insisting that these individuals were released and that he was only following orders. He has never been officially questioned, and many Indonesians turn a blind eye to the disputed episode.

“Young people just idolize a leader that looks strong and assertive, they don’t even have the imagination to understand what it was like to live under an authoritarian leader,” says Margiyono, a student activist during the Suharto years. Prabowo’s Great Indonesia Movement Party, or Gerindra, has even managed to attract some former abductees to its camp, but for people like Margiyono, the possibility of Prabowo becoming national leader brings back dark memories.

Agitating for East Timorese independence and Indonesian democracy in the 1990s, Margiyono clashed with paramilitaries believed to be under Prabowo’s command on several occasions, and his flatmate was one of the abductees who never returned. Earlier this year, Margiyono left his job in journalism to start a support organization for Prabowo’s presidential rival Joko Widodo, the Jakarta governor popularly known as Jokowi — not because Margiyono is a Jokowi fan, but because he’s afraid of what would happen if Prabowo wins.

“[Prabowo is] Suharto’s son-in-law, they’re ideologically the same,” he says. “The problem is that under Suharto, formal education taught us what it was like to live under [Suharto's autocratic predecessor] Sukarno, but [today's] reform government doesn’t teach us about the democracy situation under Suharto.”

A recent poll by the Indonesian Survey Institute discovered that about 70% of respondents were unaware of the allegations against Prabowo or his discharge from the army. Consequently, he presents to the public those aspects of his military past that suit him. On the campaign trail, he plays the part of the strongman. He has been known to enter a stadium, packed with supporters and uniformed party cadres, in semifascist splendor astride a handsome horse. And he frequently peppers his speeches with anti-Western statements and criticism of multinationals, styling himself as a reborn Sukarno, even dressing like modern Indonesia’s founding father. His supporters sport T-shirts featuring a trendy graphic image of Prabowo wearing Sukarno’s favored peci, or traditional cap.

However, pressure is mounting on Prabowo to clarify his role in the troubles of 1998. A leaked document is currently circulating on the Internet, saying that Prabowo was discharged, among other things, for insubordination after ordering special-forces units to arrest and detain activists. Separately, a group of human-rights advocates has launched a court challenge aimed at bringing Prabowo and others to trial. A former major general, Kivlan Zen, has also come forward, stating that he knew who abducted the missing activists, as well as where they are buried, but he has yet to be officially questioned.

“This new fact gives a political opportunity for us human-rights activists,” says Rafendi Djamin, director of the Human Rights Working Group. “There should be action from the relevant state institutions.”

Worryingly, in 2009 the Indonesian parliament voted in favor of setting up an extraordinary court to deal with the allegations against Prabowo, but President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has yet to sign off on the proposal.

“It’s a serious issue that Prabowo has been recognized as a presidential candidate before settling these allegations of crimes against humanity,” says Rafendi. “There is a need to clarify this as soon as possible, not only for the relatives of the victims, but for the whole country, to make sure this kind of crime doesn’t happen again.”

Dodi Ambardi, executive director of the Indonesian Survey Institute, believes chances of such clarification are slim. His institute conducted a survey of people who know about the allegations against Prabowo, and found that the majority were willing to forgive him.

“To a large extent, the human-rights allegations are a middle-class issue,” says Dodi. “Prabowo attracts many voters locally because he’s seen as the candidate of the Islamic community and because he presents himself as a national hero.”

The Gerindra party’s savvy campaigning has managed to secure a diverse voter base. Coalition building with Islamic parties has won it the religious nod. The co-opting of nationalist symbols, like the mythical garuda bird, ticks nationalist boxes, as does Prabowo’s military and his claims to an aristocratic lineage. A video made by party supporters to Pharrell Williams’ viral hit “Happy” gave his image a modern gloss, as did his appearance on the recent final of Indonesian Idol to hand out prizes.

Fadli Zon, the deputy chairman of Gerindra, says the allegations of rights abuses are outdated.

“These human-rights cases aimed at defaming Prabowo are continuously recycled,” he tells TIME. “But people are smart, so it will have no influence on our campaign.”

Campaign managers are even happy to play off the accusations. Gerindra has published a book called Kidnapped by Prabowo, describing it as “a story based on real events,” and featuring a striking cover of a frightened man being grabbed from behind. When readers open the book, however, they learn that this is not an account of activist abductions but a parable of how an ordinary man is brought into Prabowo’s life, and gets to see the great man from behind the scenes.

Noudhy Valdryno, the head of Gerindra’s social-media team, says he relishes the opportunity to explain to Indonesia’s digital-savvy youth that in 1998 Prabowo was a military leader defending the security interests of his country. “If they start arguing with us, we get the chance to explain more, so it’s a win-win situation for us,” he says.

As a result of this clever and aggressive campaigning, Jokowi’s once gaping lead has been reduced to 10% with only a month left to go, and Prabowo’s repeated assertions of his innocence could further narrow that gap. On Monday night, as the two presidential candidates squared off in their first televised debate, the notoriously temperamental Prabowo got emotional when answering a question on his human-rights position from Jusuf Kalla, Jokowi’s running mate.

“I understand where you’re going with this: whether I would be able to protect human rights because I am a human-rights violator,” said Prabowo. “Is that what you’re getting at, sir? Mr. Jusuf Kalla, I take responsibility, and my conscience is clear: I am the strongest defender of human rights in this republic.”

Many Indonesians believe him.

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser