Indonesia’s presidential hopefuls make foray into luring young voters

According to the General Elections Commission, 106 million voters, or around 52 per cent of the 204 million total eligible voters, are considered young people, or those younger than 40.

Dio Suhenda

Dio Suhenda

The Jakarta Post


A girl uses her mobile phone in front of an Indonesian election campaign mural ahead of the polls at Banda Aceh on March 17, 2019. PHOTO: AFP/THE JAKARTA POST

August 7, 2023

JAKARTA – With the official start of the campaign season less than four months away, presidential hopefuls have begun drawing up plans and holding dialogues with young voters in hopes of making themselves more appealing to the age group, which is widely tipped to be key in winning next year’s election.

According to the General Elections Commission (KPU), 106 million voters, or around 52 percent of the 204 million total eligible voters, are considered young people, or those younger than 40. A closer look at the voter roll shows that 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.

With public opinion polls showing that there is only a little electability gap between presidential frontrunners Ganjar Pranowo of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) and Prabowo Subianto of the Gerindra Party, their camps, as well as political parties backing opposition figurehead Anies Baswedan, have begun their foray to win the hearts of Indonesian youths.

To this end, the PDI-P held on Saturday training sessions for 100 of its youth campaigners at the PDI-P’s own “political party school” in South Jakarta. PDI-P secretary-general Hasto Kristiyanto said in a statement that a team of campaign experts handpicked by President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, dubbed “Team Seven”, took part as one set of instructors for the two-day training session.

“Jokowi has finally sent his people [to teach our campaigners]. This has been the result [of his instruction to better educate our campaigners on] Ganjar’s style of leadership, history and personal values,” Hasto said on Saturday.

Read also: Parties draw up strategies to entice millenials, Gen Z

While it remains unclear who the seven members of the team are, Hasto said a branding expert, a communication expert and a humor expert, who had been instrumental in styling Jokowi’s own communication style, are on the team.

Youth discussions

Also on Saturday, Anies and Democratic Party chairman Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono had a discussion with young people in Bandung, West Java, during an event called Ngobrol Bareng Anak Muda (a conversation with the youth). It was hosted by the Democrats, a member of the three-party alliance backing Anies’ presidential bid.

When asked by a university student about his outlook on Indonesian youths, Anies, a former education minister, took veiled jabs at the Jokowi administration – known for its focus on infrastructure projects – over its education woes including recent complaints over the controversial zoning policy and the poor welfare of teachers.

“[We] should not look at [state] expenditure on education as spending, but as an investment for the future. [The government] has built tolls and airports because it sees [these projects] as an investment. Investing in the quality of our people should be seen in the same way,” Anies said.

Read also: ‘Apathetic’ youth make up majority of voters

Not wanting to miss out on the youth bandwagon, Prabowo also held a discussion with a number of social media influencers at his Defense Ministry office on Thursday. Among the attendees were Bintang Emon, known for his satirical political content, as well as comics Coki Pardede and Tretan Muslim, who have not shied away from controversial topics in their skits.

While details remain sparse on what the discussions were about, pictures shared by Prabowo on his own Instagram account showed that the former general gave a tour of the Defense Ministry building to the social media influencers.

“I am very proud to have met with creative and innovative young Indonesians. We shared ideas with each other so that creativity and democracy in this country can continue to move forward,” Prabowo said.

No longer campaign object

According to political analyst Firman Noor, these early efforts from presidential hopefuls and their camps are a testament to the fact there is a shifting mentality in how election candidates view young voters.

“There was a growing realization of the importance of [youth votes] since the 2019 election. But, at the time, pandering to the youth was still viewed more as a ‘to-do list’. That’s why [youth-oriented campaigns] felt so artificial and relied more on gimmicks,” Firman said on Sunday.

He pointed to the inclusion of several millennials in the 12-member presidential expert staff shortly after Jokowi won reelection in 2019, as an example.

“But, seeing as [presidential hopefuls] have already begun focusing on the youth, I think that the youth would be afforded more space, time and effort during the upcoming campaign season, which should be realized in actual [youth-oriented] policies by whoever is elected into office,” Firman said.

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