Indonesia’s President Leads in Polls as Election Day Nears

The 2019 Indonesian general elections are set to become the largest in the country’s history, with up to 190 million voters heading to the polls on April 17 to elect the president, vice-president, and members of local and national legislatures. Incumbent President Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo is facing off against his 2014 election rival, former army general Prabowo Subianto. To win, one of these candidates and their running mate must secure 50 per cent of the popular vote, with a second round of elections required if neither passes this threshold. 

In the week leading up to the election, polls seem to favour Jokowi by a margin of 13 to 20 points. Jokowi’s campaign has been grounded in promises of upgrading aging infrastructure and reducing poverty. His record to date includes average economic growth rates of 5 per cent – higher than many neighbouring states, but below the 7 per cent he promised. Some have charged him with failing to uphold human rights and address persisting social inequalities. Prabowo’s campaign, meanwhile, hinges on his history as a strongman, with his supporters seeing him as a leader capable of favouring local businesses and steering resource control back to Indonesians. He has mobilized support through populist nationalism, particularly by appealing to hardline religious groups.

The March 30 debate between the two candidates seemed to reflect Jokowi’s aptitude in addressing foreign policy issues, but both candidates’ policies are minimally different and are still heavily dominated by party elites. The presidential candidates will have one final chance to win over voters in their fifth and final debate on April 13, which will focus on the economy, social welfare, finance, and investment, as well as trade and industry.