Indonesia’s presidential hopeful Prabowo in the lead according to polls

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Indonesia, the world’s third largest democracy, is set to conduct the largest single-day elections globally on February 14, to choose a president, vice president, and approximately 20,000 representatives for national, regional, and district parliaments. In a recent opinion poll, Prabowo Subianto, the Indonesian presidential candidate and current Minister of Defence, has established a substantial lead over his closest rival, despite facing controversy for selecting President Joko Widodo’s son, Gibran, as his running mate.

According to the survey conducted from Oct. 27 to Nov. 1 by Indikator Politik Indonesia released on Sunday, 40.7% of the respondents indicated they would vote for Prabowo if the elections were held today, while 27.8% favoured Ganjar Pranowo from the ruling party and 23% for Anies Baswedan.

Indikator’s executive director, Burhanuddin Muhtadi, emphasized the dual nature of Gibran’s inclusion, stating that it could be both an asset and a liability in the political landscape. The survey suggests that the risk paid off as a substantial increase in support for Prabowo among younger voters and Jokowi loyalists was observed, influenced in part by Gibran joining the ticket. Concerns about political dynasties and controversy surrounding the court ruling, were a calculated risk, with some 70% of the Indonesians surveyed agreeing with the Court’s ruling, a source confirmed to Qonversations.

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Previous polls by Indikator had shown Prabowo and Ganjar in a tight race, with Prabowo at 36.1% and Ganjar at 33.7% in the Oct. 26 survey. The polls took place amid headlines about Gibran Rakabuming Raka, Jokowi’s son, entering the race after a Constitutional Court ruling eliminated the minimum age requirement of 40 for candidates. Some analysts view Gibran’s candidacy as a strategic move to maintain Jokowi’s political influence and to bolster Prabowo’s chances by tapping into the president’s substantial support base.

Indikator’s survey also showed the last two years of voter preferences out of Indonesia’s three main presidential hopefuls. Minister Prabowo’s steady rise since the beginning of 2023 is given a recent boost as reflected in the curve, largely attributed to his choice of President Joko Widodo’s son as his running mate.

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The three candidates approved by the Electoral Commission on Monday are all likely to put up a valiant fight for the presidency. Prabowo’s main contender is Ganjar Pranowo, the candidate from the ruling party, who has held two consecutive terms as the governor of Central Java. Ganjar is considered the candidate of continuity, expected to ensure Widodo’s legacy. His vice-presidential partner is Muhammad Mahfud, the current government’s security minister.

The third contender in the presidential race is Anies Baswedan, the former leader of an Islamic university who served as Jakarta’s governor and has been Minister of Education. Anies won a contentious election against a Chinese Christian incumbent supported by Widodo. His running mate, Muhaimin Iskandar, serves as the chairman of the Islam-based National Awakening Party. Anies is the conservative candidate with a strong base amid radical Muslims who promises change and vows to get rid of the “corrupt establishment”.

Anies’ voters resonate with Mahfut, Ganjar’s vice presidential candidate, much more than with Gibran, whom they hate. Should there be a second-round election, the concern for Prabowo supporters is that Anies’ supporters vote for Ganjar over Prabowo.

In the last twenty years, power has predominantly rested with a select group of elites. Joko Widodo, the widely popular president of the country, stands out as the first non-member of this exclusive circle to break through. His son now being the running mate for Prabowo suggests the president’s backing is implicit.

With around 205 million eligible voters out of Indonesia’s population of over 270 million and over 70% of recent pollsters determined to vote, the elections on February 14 will determine Jokowi’s successor after his decade-long tenure.

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