Prabowo Owes His Landslide Victory To Jokowi’s Endorsement – Analysis


By Alexander Arifianto

After nearly four years of preparation and four long months of intense campaigning, the Indonesian presidential election finally took place on 14 February 2024. It resulted in a landslide victory for President Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo’s favoured candidate, Prabowo Subianto, Indonesia’s defence minister and a former army general who served under the country’s late dictator, Suharto. 

As of the evening of 16 February, Indikator Politik, a reputable polling firm, predicted that Prabowo had won 58 per cent of votes. His two opponents — Anies Baswedan and Ganjar Pranowo — managed to win only 25.3 per cent and 16.6 per cent of the votes respectively. This landslide victory means that Prabowo has exceeded the 50 per cent threshold required to win the election in one round, avoiding a possible runoff with the second-placed candidate.

Meanwhile, in the national legislative elections, Indikator predicts that the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) will remain the largest party in the Indonesian House of Representatives (DPR) with 16.7 per cent of the vote, about 2.6 points below its 2019 share. The Golkar Party, Suharto’s former political vehicle, will be the second largest party in the DPR, with 14.8 per cent of the vote, while Prabowo’s party Gerindra will be the third largest party, with 13.7 per cent of the vote. 

The national legislative election vote has favoured those political parties that are currently represented in the DPR. Eight out of nine parties represented in the DPR are predicted to win representation in the new parliament. Only the United Development Party (PPP) — a small Islamist party — seems to have lost its DPR seats, after it failed to pass the minimum 4 per cent threshold required to be assigned parliamentary seats. 

Meanwhile, none of the nine parties not currently represented in the DPR, including the Indonesian Solidarity Party (PSI) — which declared itself as ‘Jokowi’s party’ — are currently predicted to pass the parliamentary threshold and be represented in the new parliament. PSI had selected Kaesang Pangarep, Jokowi’s second son, as its new party chair in September 2023.

Prabowo and Gibran’s pair victory has long been predicted by reputable polling firms. According to Indikator Politik’s final election survey, released on 9 February 2024, Prabowo was leading the presidential race at 51.8 per cent, followed by Anies at 24.1 per cent and Ganjar at 19.6 per cent. The Indonesian Survey Institute’s poll survey released on 10 February 2024 revealed that 51.9 per cent of respondents planned to back Prabowo, followed by Anies at 23.3 per cent and Ganjar at 20.3 per cent. 

During the election campaign, both Anies and Ganjar attacked Prabowo by questioning his human rights record over allegations of his involvement in kidnappings of anti-Suharto activists committed when he was still an army general. They doubted Prabowo’s fitness to serve as president given his frequent emotional outbursts and accused him of irregularities in several military procurement projects undertaken while he served as defence minister. 

But Prabowo managed to overcome these accusations, thanks to outgoing president Jokowi’s de facto endorsement of his candidacy. Jokowi remains a very popular figure among Indonesians — nearly 80 per cent are either very satisfied or satisfied with his performance as Indonesian president. Jokowi’s endorsement of Prabowo and the appointment of his son Gibran as Prabowo’s running mate are widely considered to be the leading factors that swung most voters to Prabowo’s side.

Many domestic and international observers believe that Indonesian democracy is deteriorating, due to the perceived interference of the outgoing administration towards watchdog institutions like the Constitutional Court and the National Elections Commission (KPU). The passage of new legislation that restricts civil rights and freedom of expression for ordinary Indonesians is also a big cause of concern. 

But these concerns are not reflected among the majority of Indonesian voters. Nearly 71 per cent of respondents in last February’s Indikator survey believe that Indonesian democracy is either in good or very good condition. Only 5.9 per cent of respondents believe that it is in a poor or very poor condition.

Prabowo’s election as Indonesia’s next president is an affirmation of Jokowi’s popularity among ordinary Indonesians after his decade-long focus on economic and infrastructure development. Jokowi has spent his final year in office trying to ensure a landslide victory for his hand-picked successor. 

Now that Prabowo’s victory is secured, only time will tell whether Jokowi’s actions will secure his political and economic legacy, or whether it will come at the cost of weakening the foundations of the world’s third largest democracy.

  • About the author: Alexander R Arifianto is a Senior Fellow with the Indonesia Programme at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
  • Source: This article was published by East Asia Forum

East Asia Forum

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