Indonesia Analytical Update: 2019 Indonesian Elections

Indonesia Election Results | May 29, 2019
Authors: Kim Yaeger, Landry Subianto, Chase Blazek

On April 17, Indonesia held its general elections, which for the first-time ever combined a presidential vote with national and regional parliamentary ballots. Dubbed as the largest democratic election ever held in one day, around 80% of the 193 million eligible voters cast their votes in more than 800,000 polling stations across Indonesia. On the morning of Tuesday, May 21, the General Elections Commission (KPU) proclaimed Joko “Jokowi” Widodo as the winner of election for President of Indonesia. Jokowi and his VP candidate, Ma’ruf Amin – an influential Islamic cleric – won more than 85 million popular votes (55.5%) against their opponent, Prabowo Subianto – Sandiaga Uno, who received 44.5% of votes.  

Following the KPU’s decision, on Tuesday afternoon, protests commenced in Jakarta outside the Elections Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu), with protesters claiming electoral fraud by Jokowi. These protests turned into riots late Tuesday night, with rioters tossing stones and hurling Molotov cocktails while police responded with tear gas. Street clashes, which continued until Thursday morning, resulted in the deaths of 8 people and injuries in the hundreds. Police Chief Tito Karnavian and others in government are claiming provocateurs infiltrated the protests to sew discontent and may have caused some of these deaths. Grossly concerned by the widespread of hoaxes, false news, and hatred speeches through the misuse of social media, the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology censored access to WhatsApp - the primary mobile messaging tool in Indonesia between Tuesday and Saturday, May 26 - and restricted use of Facebook and Instagram, prompting widespread use of VPNs to dodge censorship. The temporary censorship of social media sites is a concerning development for digital market players and potentially in violation of Law No. 8/1999 on Consumer Protection, according to Tulles Abadi, chairman of the Indonesian Consumers Foundation.

The opposition candidate, Prabowo Subianto, denounced the riots but filed suit with the Constitutional Court on Friday night, alleging electoral fraud by Jokowi’s coalition. The Court will hold a preliminary hearing on June 14, followed by an evidentiary hearing on June 17, and a final ruling before June 28. Prabowo’s suit is unlikely to overturn the results.

While Jokowi won the election by a margin of 11%, Prabowo Subianto won some of Indonesia’s most predominantly Muslim regions, according to Karen Brooks of the Council on Foreign Relations. Jokowi’s campaign, based on promises to reform the economy, fight corruption, and attract foreign investment, resonated with non-Muslim-majority regions, which Brooks claims as evidence of the growing religious divide in Indonesia. Thus, Jokowi may attempt to bring dissenting parties on the right into the political discourse while continuing to improve the economy. Such attempts will, if successful, forestall conservative policy shifts including market distortions under Halal labeling regulations and protectionist shifts on the implementation of data localization statutes. The trajectory of such legislation will depend on the political environment over the coming months, including Jokowi’s ongoing efforts to maintain public stability.

Nonetheless, on the legislative front, Jokowi will enjoy the support of his coalition parties, which won more than 60% of seats in the parliament. This is an important political modality to ensure Jokowi’s legacy in economic reforms and development by the end of his 2nd term in 2024. This means Jokowi will have more space in ensuring his priorities of infrastructure, human capital, structural reform, and technology and innovation (digital, e-commerce). Multiple credible sources revealed that Jokowi would prefer “doers” – someone who can deliver – in his next cabinet line-up. Moreover, as hinted at by Philips Vermonte – Executive Director of CSIS, Jakarta – one should not overlook the rise of regional and local leaders whose focus is on delivering better public services. They will have political and economic incentives to work closely with President Jokowi because they need access to development projects from central government to create solid development achievements. Such achievements could be used as political currencies prior to the 2024 elections. Conversely, President Jokowi will require alliances with these regional leaders, including prominent governors like Ridwan Kamil of West Java or Ganjar Pranowo of Central Java, to secure his development legacy.