Indonesian election: Runners declared in two-horse race

May 14 / 136

Indonesian Presidential frontrunner Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo and his Vice Presidential running mate Jusuf Kalla announced their ticket on 19 May.
Indonesian Presidential frontrunner Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo and his Vice Presidential running mate Jusuf Kalla announced their ticket on 19 May.

Election Watch Project Officer Lily Yulianti Farid examines the candidates vying for the presidency of Southeast Asia’s largest nation. 

The Indonesian Presidential election on 9 July will be a tight race, with frontrunner Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo’s only challenger, ex-general Prabowo Subianto, gaining the surprise support of a formidable coalition. 

Jokowi’s Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) announced that former Vice President Jusuf Kalla will share the ticket as Vice Presidential Candidate.

Kalla was formerly a chairman of the Golkar party, the country’s second largest, and many pundits were tipping Golkar would support Jokowi.

But one day before the deadline for Presidential candidates to register their candidacies in the National Election Commission, Jokowi’s main rival, the Gerindra Party’s Prabowo, unveiled his own alliance with Golkar. 

His running mate is a former Coordinating Minister for Economics and the chairman of PAN (or Partai Amanat Rakyat, the National Mandate Party), Hatta Rajasa. 

Golkar’s support for Prabowo came after the party's chairman, business tycoon Aburizal Bakrie, failed to reach a political deal with the PDI-P.   

The Jokowi-Kalla ticket is supported by a coalition of PDI-P, Nasdem (the National Democratic Party), PKB (the National Awakening Party) and Hanura (the People’s Conscience Party), capturing 34.69 per cent of the vote in the April parliamentary election. 

They declared their candidacies at the historic site of Gedung Juang 1945, promising a better future under the slogan: Indonesia Hebat (Great Indonesia). “We will bring change for people,” said Jokowi in the declaration.

In a showdown between Jokowi-Kalla and Prabowo-Hatta, major surveys were suggesting the Jokowi ticket could gain up to 51 per cent of the vote, and Prabowo- Hatta 32.4 per cent of votes. 

But with Golkar’s support, Prabowo’s ticket has now secured a substantially larger coalition, with an accumulated vote of 59.2 per cent based on the parliamentary election result.

Since last year Jokowi, 53, has been leading in all major political surveys and polls as the favoured presidential candidate, forcing the party chairperson, Megawati Sukarnoputri, to announce in early March – with the April parliamentary election looming just around the corner - that Jokowi would be the candidate. 

The grassroots momentum of the so-called  ‘Jokowi Effect’ helped the party to finish first in the parliamentary election, with 18.95 per cent of vote. 

Jokowi is a new phenomenon in Indonesian politics. With his down-to-earth leadership style, he has attracted public and media interest in the past ten years first as the charismatic mayor of Surakarta, Central Java. 

Meanwhile, Prabowo Subianto is a controversial and colossal figure in Indonesian politics. 

His background as the former Special Forces Commander in the New Order made him a target of constant criticism on human rights abuses, kidnappings and violence during the Suharto regime.  

With his running mate Hatta Rajasa of the moderate Islamic party PAN he has the endorsement of Gerindra, Golkar and two other Islamic parties: PPP (United Development Party) and PKS (Prosperous Justice Party). The coalition dubbed themselves “the big tent” to reflect their strong voter powerbase.

This is for the first time the presidential election in Indonesia has had only two pairs of candidates or a head-to-head race.

The newly democratic country conducted its first direct presidential poll in 2004, with six pairs of candidates contesting. In 2009, the presidential election was held with three pairs of candidates.  

According to a political analyst from the Indonesian Science Institute, Siti Zuhro, the presidential election is more about figureheads and individual personas, regardless of the coalitions brokered by political elites. 

She believes that voters will make their choice based on character rather that policy platforms or programs.

This is an edited version of an article originally published by the University’s Election Watch news and analysis website. The original is available here. 

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