Indonesia’s political parties draw up strategies to entice Millennials, Gen Z

The parties have acknowledged the rising importance of young voters in the 2024 elections.

Dio Suhenda

Dio Suhenda

The Jakarta Post


July 10, 2023

JAKARTA – With the country’s youth between 18 and 40 years old making up the majority of eligible voters for the 2024 elections, political parties have begun drawing up their strategies to entice the two largest generations of the age group: millennials and Generation Z.

Presenting the national voter roll during a plenary meeting last week, the General Elections Commission (KPU) said that of the total 204 million eligible voters for next year’s elections, 106 million, around 52 percent, are voters younger than the age of 40. To be more specific, a third of all registered voters are millennials, while a further 22 percent belong to Generation Z, or those born in the late 1990s and onward.

Parties have acknowledged the rising importance of young voters in the 2024 elections.

“Since the start, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle [PDI-P] has been paying special attention [to voters] from Generation Z by shifting [the PDI-P] into a digital-based party,” senior PDI-P politician Djarot Saiful Hidayat told reporters on Monday.

Recent United Development Party (PPP) inductee Sandiaga Uno, who is also head of the party’s campaign team, also said on Monday that Generation Z and millennials would be at the heart of the PPP’s campaign, as it seeks to get 11 million votes at the legislative election next year.

Kamhar Lakumani, deputy head of the Democratic party campaign team, which is backing opposition figurehead Anies Baswedan as its presumptive presidential nominee, also said attending to Generation Z and millennial voters’ concerns is a “particular focus” for the party.

“As Mas AHY puts it, youth is strength,” Kamhar said on Thursday, referring to party head Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono.

Shifting platforms

With all signs pointing to the 2024 elections coming down to a race to win youth votes, political parties have begun coming up with their own approaches that play to their own strengths.

The PDI-P, with social media darling Ganjar Pranowo on top of the party’s presidential ticket, said its plans to appeal to younger generations by taking its campaign trail to social media.

“The PDI-P has long instructed party members to have [their own] podcasts,” Djarot of the PDI-P said. “Why? Because we know that the millennial generation is very information literate.”

An October survey by the Jakarta-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) focusing on the electoral outlook of prospective voters between the ages of 17 and 39 showed that social media was the go-to source of information for young people, with 59 percent of respondents saying they got their information on current events chiefly from social media.

While no parties have yet to clearly outline their social media strategy ahead of the official start of the general election campaign period in November, TikTok, whose rising popularity in the country have made Indonesia home to the platform’s second-largest audience globally, has been widely tipped to be the new battleground to appeal to young voters.

But, observers have also raised concerns that TikTok could be an echo chamber for misinformation and hate speech, particularly since an October research conducted by watchdog group Global Witness and the New York University’s Cybersecurity for Democracy team found that TikTok approved the highest percentage of false political advertisements than other sites such as YouTube and Facebook.

With over 57,000 followers, the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) currently has the biggest following of the political parties on TikTok. Head of the PKS’ central board public relations division, Ahmad Mabruri, told local media Alinea earlier this year that the PKS had been serious in developing its TikTok account as an attempt “to follow the market trend.”

Issues youth can relate to

Meanwhile, the Golkar party, which is mulling over its own presidential bid, said it aimed to capitalize on the fact that, as coordinating economic minister, party head Airlangga Hartarto was familiar with many issues closely related to Generation Z, such as employment and economic development.

“Generation Z and the millennial generation are very responsive to issues that are closely related to their own lives,” Golkar party politician Dave Laksono said on Monday. “Pak Airlangga can answer these challenges and hopes.”

Taking a similar approach, the National Mandate Party (PAN), Golkar’s partner in the United Indonesia Coalition (KIB), has knuckled down on its recent rebranding as a youth-oriented and inclusive party, moving away from the party’s previous Islamic branding.

“PAN is an inclusive, modern party that respects diversity and humanity,” PAN deputy head Viva Yoga Mauladi said on Tuesday. “In evidence, PAN has a youth wing […] and an organization specifically for [the party’s] female members.”

PAN’s attempt at pandering to younger generations’ interest has even extended to inviting a K-Pop act perform at a party meeting last year, which the Gerindra party also emulated with its Blackpink ticket giveaway in March – although both of these efforts came under heavy fire from Indonesian K-Pop fans.

The NasDem party, meanwhile, launched late last month an internal education campaign, dubbed the “25/25” movement in reference to the fact that around a quarter of national voters would be younger than 25 years old, for the party’s young cadres.

Substance, not gimmicks

Arya Fernandes, head of politics and social change at the CSIS, said that, while no party has stood out in terms of its appeal to young voters, any effective youth-focused campaign should focus on substantive issues close to the Generation Z voters, rather than campaign gimmicks.

“Gimmicks, such as songs and jingles, or simply inducting popular public figures and social media personalities into a party’s ranks in the hopes that it would bring more young voters would no longer be effective, since young voters are critical [thinkers],” Arya said on Friday.

Rather than just employment and economic development, issues that are part-and-parcel of any presidential and legislative campaign, Arya expects newer issues such as graft-busting, the environment and public health to be more prominent leading up to next year’s elections.

“These issues have generally not been addressed so far, but are close to the youth,” Arya added. (ahw)

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