McLARTY INDONESIA UPDATE: Presidential election preview
April 16, 2019
- On April 17, Indonesian voters will elect their seventh president and fill more than 20,000 legislative seats in both houses of parliament, provincial legislatures, and district and city councils. Incumbent president Joko “Jokowi” Widodo will face Prabowo Subianto in a rematch of the 2014 elections.
- Final polls point to a victory by President Jokowi with Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting putting Jokowi’s electability at 56.8 percent to Prabowo’s 37 percent.
- Should Jokowi win a second term, businesses can expect a continuation of the status quo with an emphasis on boosting economic growth, continued infrastructure development, and pressure to localize production.
- Hours after the election concludes, local television stations will begin projecting unofficial quick counts with the official count expected to be produced after a month. Indonesia’s seventh president will be inaugurated on October 20.
Over 193 million Indonesians will head to the polls on April 17 to decide between incumbent Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and Prabowo Subianto in a rematch of the 2014 elections. Indonesians will vote in about 805,000 polling stations across 34 provinces where about 6 million election workers have been deployed to facilitate the voting process. In addition to the presidential race, more than 245,000 candidates are running for more than 20,000 legislative seats in both houses of parliament, provincial legislatures, and district and city councils. In the presidential race, Jokowi has selected an influential Islamic cleric, Ma’ruf Amin, as his running mate, while Prabowo selected Western-educated businessman Sandiaga Uno.
In the legislative elections, 16 political parties look to secure candidates in both houses of parliament. Among them, 9 parties form part of Jokowi’s coalition, 5 support Prabowo, and 2 remain neutral. In order to secure a seat in the House, a party will need to earn at least 4 percent of the national vote. Playing an important role in this year’s elections will be Indonesia’s millennial voters, who make up about 40 percent of the voting population.
KEY ELECTION THEMES
The presidential candidates participated in four debates and one vice presidential debate, touching on themes of religion, the economy, and infrastructure development. Under Jokowi, Indonesia has grown into a trillion-dollar economy. The incumbent has touted his achievements to improve infrastructure and diversify the economy. Meanwhile, Prabowo has embraced a fiery brand of nationalism and has promised to halt the importation of food and fuel and lower prices for staples, among others.
Nonetheless, both campaign platforms offer more similarities than differences. Both candidates are running on a platform of economic nationalism, pledging to run against foreign interests in Indonesia with Jokowi highlighting his resource nationalism efforts, including reclaiming ownership of mining giant Freeport, while Prabowo has vowed to end the exploitation of Indonesian wealth and resources by foreigners, including China.
Although attacks on Jokowi’s religious credentials were largely quelled with the selection of cleric Ma’ruf Amin as his running mate, religion and identity politics will remain a wild card in the polls and will likely remain a consistent theme post-election. Both candidates have looked to engage the increasingly socially conservative Muslim voter base, and Jokowi’s team has worked to improve his religious reputation throughout the campaign.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Final polls point to a victory by President Jokowi but the margin between candidates has narrowed throughout the campaign. The latest survey conducted by Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting put Jokowi’s electability rate at 56.8 percent to Prabowo’s 37 percent. However, Prabowo’s lead has steadily increased, gaining 5.2 percentage points from March alone. In most reliable polls administered in late-March, Jokowi still enjoys double-digit leads over Prabowo.
Should Jokowi win a second term, businesses can expect a continuation of the status quo with an emphasis on boosting economic growth and continued infrastructure development. Jokowi will also look to continue efforts to improve the ease of doing business, while also pushing foreign companies to localize sourcing and local production of Indonesian commodities. Meanwhile if Prabowo makes a surprise win, the policy implications remain unclear. Prabowo’s embrace of the business community may see the likelihood of continuity in economic policy, while his links to Islamist parties and questionable human rights records risk tainting Indonesia’s image of moderate Islam.
As with previous elections, Indonesia has been successful with its peaceful transition of power and tomorrow’s election is not expected to be an exception. However, senior officials of the Prabowo campaign continue to allege data irregularities among voters and have vowed to take legal action or use “people power.” The General Elections Commission (KPU) has refuted the allegations noting that any problems on voter lists have been resolved. More than 10,000 volunteers are expected to participate in crowd-sourcing results posted at polling stations to prevent fraud. If Jokowi wins by a slim margin, there is a higher likelihood that Prabowo will refuse to concede, increasing the risk of street protests.
While official results will take a month for the KPU to tabulate, unofficial quick count results will likely be projected by local television stations after polls close. Indonesia’s seventh president will be inaugurated on October 20.
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