Coverage of the Indonesian Election 2019

Indonesia’s President Leads in Polls as Election Day Nears

- April 11, 2019

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.

Deja Vu: President Jokowi Re-Elected for a Second Term

- April 25, 2019

Indonesia’s incumbent president Joko Widodo (Jokowi) won re-election by a comfortable margin in the country’s presidential election on April 17, 2019 (although the results will not be made official until May 22). The early ‘quick count’ results put Jokowi in the lead, with 55 per cent of the votes compared to opponent Prabowo Subianto, with 45 per cent. In 2014, Jokowi faced off against Subianto for the first time, and his victory made him the first president who did not hail from the Indonesian ruling elite. The furniture-seller turned politician was widely seen as a “man of the people,” while his rival Prabowo, a general and the son-in-law of former dictator Suharto, stood in stark contrast.

Indonesia is home to the world’s largest Muslim population and the third-largest democracy. Although the election was largely seen as peaceful, the campaign period was marked by populist rhetoric and polarizing debates about national and religious identity amidst the growing influence of conservative Islam. Prabowo courted the support of hardline Muslims, while Jokowi, in response to accusations of being anti-Islam, named a prominent religious cleric as his running mate. The spread of fake newson social media during the election campaign only exacerbated religious tensions within the country.

And yet, the battle is not over for Jokowi, as he must now fulfil his promises of sustaining economic growth, creating jobs, and addressing human rights concerns. Meanwhile, he will have to contend with the growing influence of conservative Islamic forces and greater polarization within Indonesian society.