Indonesians Vote In Election For New President, Legislators


By Arie Firdaus

Tens of millions of Indonesians began voting Wednesday, with all eyes on whether frontrunner Prabowo Subianto – an ex-general with a checkered human rights record – will win the election outright, or the race will go to a runoff in June.

Prabowo, twice a losing candidate, is the leading contender to succeed the wildly popular Joko “Jokowi” Widodo as president of the world’s fourth-most populous nation.

The 72-year-old defense minister – with Jokowi’s eldest son as his running mate – is facing off against Anies Baswedan, a former Jakarta governor, and ex-Central Java Gov. Ganjar Pranowo. The constitution bars Jokowi from seeking a third five-year term. 

Nearly 205 million people are eligible to vote in the simultaneous presidential and legislative elections being held across three time zones, making it one of the world’s most complex single-day ballots. 

Voting kicked off in eastern Indonesia, including the restive Papua region, at 7 a.m. and will close at 1 p.m. Jakarta time.

Indonesians are choosing national, provincial, regional and city representatives, in addition to a new president and vice president – dealing with five ballots at once.

A total of 9,917 candidates from 18 national parties are contesting for the 580 seats in the national House of Representatives. Around 250,000 candidates are competing for the more than 20,000 regional legislator positions.

More than 800,000 polling stations have been set up across the island nation, with about 5.7 million election workers overseeing the immense logistical operation.

Around 52% of the eligible electorate this time are under the age of 40, which means 107 million millennials and Gen Z-ers  are permitted to cast their ballots. Any Indonesian citizen who is 17 or older is allowed to vote.

The result of the presidential contest is the most anticipated one.

Recent surveys show Prabowo, who was the son-in-law of Indonesia’s long-time dictator Suharto, leading by a wide margin in the three-way race. 

But to avoid a runoff and win an outright victory, he needs more than 50% of the national vote and 20% of the vote in half the provinces. 

If no single candidate wins a majority of the vote, a runoff – a contest between the two top candidates – will be held on June 26.

A poll conducted between Jan. 28 and Feb. 4 by Indikator Politik projected Prabowo winning 51.8% of the vote, according to the results released last week. Anies and Ganjar were forecast to secure 24.1% and 19.3%, respectively.

This is Indonesia’s fifth direct presidential election since transitioning to democracy in 1998. The first one in 2004 went to a runoff, but the ones since have been decided in the first round.

In recent weeks rumors have surfaced about Anies and Ganjar joining forces to thwart Prabowo should the voting go to a runoff.

Jokowi’s role

This alliance of Prabowo and Jokowi’s son, Gibran Rakabuming Raka, has raised concerns among some Indonesians about dynastic politics and nepotism. 

Gibran’s path to the contest was cleared by the decision of a top court led by Jokowi’s brother-in-law that allowed the 36-year-old to circumvent an age restriction to run for the VP post.

Jokowi has not officially endorsed any candidates, but it is generally viewed that he favors Prabowo and his son. 

The president caused a furor when he said last month that he had the right to campaign and pick sides, although he later backed down saying he wouldn’t campaign for any candidate. 

However, Jokowi has made several highly publicized appearances alongside Prabowo.

Prabowo’s popularity surged after he sought to transform his image from that of a fiery nationalist – who was dismissed from the military for his involvement in kidnapping democracy activists – to a more approachable, avuncular figure, especially on social media platforms.

He has promised to slash the national debt by 50% in five years, beef up the military and provide free lunches at schools.

On Saturday, at his final rally at Jakarta’s Gelora Bung Karno Stadium, Prabowo promised to make Indonesia a great and prosperous nation that would not be divided or lied to by foreign powers.

“We will be the president and vice president for all the people of Indonesia,” he said, alongside his running mate Gibran.

Across town at the Jakarta International Stadium, a gleaming new venue with a retractable roof that was completed in 2022, Anies wrapped up his campaign with a speech in which he reiterated concerns about the state of democracy in Indonesia. 

“We will restore Indonesia as a country that does not scare anyone, which does not threaten the freedom to criticize those who hold authority,” he told supporters.

Initially seen as a long-shot candidate for the presidency, Anies’s platform is distinct from that of his opponents who have said they would broadly continue Jokowi’s policies. Anies is opposed to  many of those, including Jokowi’s multibillion dollar project to move the capital from Jakarta to Borneo.

He has said the money would be better spent on eradicating poverty and inequality, and ensuring that every Indonesian has access to quality public services, including healthcare, education and housing.

The 54-year-old’s popularity has grown in recent weeks, as Ganjar’s ratings have faltered. 

The third presidential contestant, Ganjar, from the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), was initially seen as the natural successor to Jokowi, who belongs to the same party. 

Known for his down-to-earth and relatable charm, Ganjar is a populist, who like the president comes from a humble background and built his support base through regional politics.

His platform focused on job creation and economic growth. He said he wanted to turn Indonesia into a leading maritime nation by boosting the country’s sea connectivity, marine industry and coastal tourism.

But his ratings took a hit after Jokowi tacitly threw his support behind Prabowo.

Counting of votes will begin after the election closes all over the country.

Ballots are counted in public to ensure transparency and prevent electoral fraud. Security personnel will be present to maintain order and protect officials doing the counting.

Although official results are only expected around March 20, early vote counts, or “quick counts,” are usually a reliable gauge of what those results will look like. 

Pollsters use quick counts,  a statistical method that tallies votes at sampled  polling stations, to predict the election results, according to The Jakarta Post. 

Quick counts begin to be announced two hours after the vote closes. 


BenarNews’ mission is to provide readers with accurate news and information that reflects the complex and ever-changing world around them. With homepages in Bengali, Thai, Bahasa Malaysia, Bahasa Indonesia and English, BenarNews brings timely news to its diverse audience. Copyright BenarNews. Used with the permission of BenarNews

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