Indonesia presidential elections: Ready for the race

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© Unsplash / Nick Agus Arya

Who will win the next presidential elections in Indonesia? Although President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, is still ranked first in popularity and electability in prominent political pollsters, he is now in his second term and is banned by the State Constitution to run for the third term.

There is a move from Jokowi’s supporters to reelect him for the third term by pushing an idea for a referendum of the Constitution but this would take more than three years. Many fears the referendum would also touch other ‘sensitive’ articles in the constitution, such as the inclusion of Islamist-inspired Piagam Jakarta, instead of the current secular-based articles. Moreover, Jokowi has refused the idea of amending the constitution. “It’s a slap in the face”, he was quoted by “The Jakarta Post".

So who will take over? According to polls, the top three candidates for the presidential elections 2024 are Current Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto ranked the first, followed by Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo and Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan.

Prabowo Subianto

The former Army lieutenant general Prabowo is also the chairman of the country’s third largest Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra). He was defeated by President Jokowi in 2014 and 2019 elections. Now he is ranked the first in electability (around 19 percent). Almost all Indonesians know the former son-in-law of the country’s second president Suharto, and every fifth would vote for him. According to the polls, Prabowo’s electability is stagnant comparing to earlier surveys. He will be 74 years old in 2024. The pollsters include The Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting (SMRC), Indikator Politik, the Charta Politika.

Ganjar Pranowo

The second top rank potential presidential candidate Ganjar Pranowo, like President Jokowi, is a member of the country’s largest Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P). With the electability of around 18 percent and popularity of below 50 percent, his chance to increase the electability is still open. However, the hurdle might come from his party as the party chairwoman Megawati Sukarnoputri, who is also the country’s fourth president, prefers to nominate her daughter Puan Maharani as presidential candidate or, at least, vice presidential candidate. Puan who is now the House of Representatives speaker, as vice president hopeful, would be paired with Prabowo.

Anies Baswedan

Anies Baswedan’s electability is around 17 percent with popularity around 50 percent. Anies’s popularity is higher than Ganjar’s which is due to Jakarta gubernatorial elections in 2016 which became a ‘national’ political event. Anies won the race, defeating the incumbent Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, popularly known as Ahok. Anies was nominated by Prabowo’s Gerindra Party and the Islamist Prosperous Justice Party (PKS). He was also supported by Islamic mass groups, including the now-banned hardliner Islamic Defender Front (FPI) which managed to organize thousands of people to conduct rallies to demand Ahok, a Christian and Indonesian Chinese descent, to be tried for blasphemy due to his earlier speech which was deemed by the Islamists as defaming the religion. Ahok was then jailed for two years for blasphemy.

Other potential candidates that might join the presidential elections, in which according to the pollsters have around ten to five percent electability are West Java Governor Ridwan Kamil and Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Sandiaga Uno.

Ridwan Kamil

The 49-year-old Ridwan rose into fame after winning the gubernatorial election in 2018. With a support from small parties, including the National Democratic (Nasdem) Party and Islamist United Development Party (PPP), the former Bandung mayor defeated candidates who were supported by bigger parties. Before entering politics, Ridwan was well-known architect with award winning designs. West Java is one of three provinces which have largest voters, the other two provinces are Central Java and East Java with populations are around 40 million each. Indonesian’s population is 275 million. Analysts say if a candidate won voters in Java, he or she will win the race.

Sandiaga Uno

Another potential candidate to win the race is Sandiaga Uno who is also Gerindra Party’s deputy chairman. Businessman Sandiaga, 52 years old, was Jakarta Vice Governor when he joined the presidential elections in 2019, as vice presidential candidate for Prabowo against incumbent Jokowi. Meanwhile, Agus Yudhoyono, the eldest son of former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is also a potential candidate in 2024. Supported by his Democratic party and several small parties, Agus, former Army officer, joined the Jakarta gubernatorial elections in 2016 which was won by Anies-Sandiaga pair.

Needed to win the race: Social media boost

As the Covid-19 pandemic is still ravaging, the potential candidates turned their campaign strategies online, using social media, such as twitter, Instagram and Tiktok to attract voters. Anies, Ganjar and Ridwan used social media to announce their activities to millions of their followers. Sandiaga used his YouTube-channel to attract younger voters. The popularity of Ganjar in social media once irked his PDI-P party. “Leader should be active in fields, not in social media,” Puan Maharani was quoted by several media outlets as saying, aiming to Ganjar.

The campaign strategy of the potential candidates in social media is aimed to boost their popularity since they are not important figures and decision makers in the political parties. Anies and Ridwan are not even members of any political parties. They are just nominated in their current positions because of their popularity. Similarly, President Jokowi was not important figure in PDI-P when he joined the presidential elections in 2014. Jokowi was Jakarta governor and PDI-P finally endorsed him due to high popularity of him. Although the popularity of Jokowi is still highest, the Constitution only allows two terms for a president position.

So, the time is not yet end for potential presidential candidates to prepare their strategies to increase their popularity and electability, winning heart and mind of Indonesian people.