Mudslinging begins between Ganjar, Prabowo supporters

Militant supporters of Ganjar on Twitter are believed to have instigated a scathing hashtag in an apparent attempt to hurt Prabowo’s credibility.

Dio Suhenda

Dio Suhenda

The Jakarta Post


President Joko “Jokowi“ Widodo (right), accompanied by Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto (left) and Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo, inspects a mass paddy harvest in Lajer village, Kebumen regency, Central Java, on March 9.(Presidential Secretariat's Press Bureau/Laily Rachev)

June 13, 2023

JAKARTA – While President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo is reportedly pushing for the Prabowo Subianto-Ganjar Pranowo ticket in his attempt to create a unified front in the 2024 presidential election, elite supporters of the two presumptive presidential nominees are trading barbs on social media.

As “volunteer” groups increase their influence in politics by forging closer ties with their elite patrons, the brewing tensions between the two strongest pro-government candidates on social media may reflect an intensifying power struggle within the ruling coalition over the question of who will succeed President Jokowi come October 2024.

The latest mudslinging was triggered by the controversial peace plan proposed by the defense minister at the 2023 IISS Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore earlier this month. Militant supporters of Ganjar on Twitter are believed to have instigated a scathing hashtag, #PrabowoMemalukanJokowi (Prabowo Embarasses Jokowi), in an apparent attempt to hurt Prabowo’s credibility.

The hashtag went viral on Twitter, with many political buzzers, whose social media content primarily revolves around promoting Ganjar and poking fun at the fact that Prabowo’s recent Ukraine-Russia peace plan was flatly rejected by Kyiv.

When the nation commemorated 25 years of reform in May, Ganjar supporters invoked the oft-repeated criticism that as a military officer Prabowo was involved in the kidnapping of pro-democracy activists.


‘Overstepping’ Jokowi’s authority

The social media campaign painted the Gerindra Party’s presidential nominee as being out of touch with international diplomacy and that he overstepped the President’s authority, particularly since Jokowi has admitted that the peace plan came directly from the senior minister himself without prior consultation, and that he would summon Prabowo to seek clarification.

Read also: Jokowi will seek clarification from Prabowo for Ukraine speech

The campaign also highlighted the fact that Foreign Minister Retno L.P. Marsudi told lawmakers to take it up to the defense minister himself when she was asked to clarify the government’s stance on the peace plan during a meeting with House of Representatives Commission I overseeing foreign affairs on Monday.

But Prabowo’s own supporters were also quick to come to his defense, framing his proposal as evidence of guts and bravery; a nod to Jokowi’s recent comment on the characteristics needed by Indonesia’s future president.

Read also: Ganjar has ‘bravery’ country needs: Jokowi

Prabowo previously delivered his proposal for a multi-point plan at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore over the weekend. The plan consisted of an immediate ceasefire, the withdrawal of both Russian and Ukrainian troops to establish a demilitarized zone, and having the United Nations monitor the truce and hold a referendum over disputed territories.

Read also: Kyiv slams Prabowo’s Russia-Ukraine peace plan

Senior Ukrainian officials immediately slammed Prabowo’s peace plan for failing to condemn and adequately account for Russia’s aggression, arguing that Moscow should be the only party to withdraw its troops, not Kyiv.



Ganjar’s supporters ‘panicking’

Immanuel Ebenezer, head of the Jokowi Mania (JoMan) supporter group, which in February switched its support from Ganjar to Prabowo, has fired back at the Twitter movement, calling it a “black campaign” against Prabowo that was based on hate speech and instigated by people who had no familiarity with international politics.

Read also: Jokowi supporters turn to Prabowo after initially supporting Ganjar for presidential bid

“I think [Ganjar’s supporters] are starting to panic, they see that [Prabowo’s electability] is on the rise, so they are starting to get desperate,” Immanuel told The Jakarta Post on Thursday. “We won’t bother responding to their black campaign since all their [criticisms] were baseless.”

The results of an Indikator Politik Indonesia survey on Sunday showed that Prabowo’s electability has continued its upward trend since January, while Ganjar’s electability has hovered at around 34 percent after rebounding from an almost 7 percentage point dip in mid-April, putting Prabowo in top spot in a three-horse race simulation, with a 3.8 percentage point lead over Ganjar.

But Prabowo’s camp has also not entirely been innocent of slander, as many of Prabowo’s supporters, including Immanuel, have accused Ganjar of being the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle’s (PDI-P) “puppet” and made fun of a statement Ganjar made three years ago, when he admitted in a podcast with social media personality Deddy Corbuzier that he would watch porn videos from time-to-time.



Immanuel claimed that Prabowo had since asked his supporters to stop instigating slanderous campaigns.


Not a ‘black campaign’

Meanwhile, Juliant Palar, head of one of Ganjar’s volunteer groups, the United Friends of Ganjar, said the Twitter movement on Wednesday was more of an expression of disappointment from a number of Ganjar supporters toward Prabowo’s actions, rather than an outright negative campaign aimed at discrediting the minister.

“We all know that most [members] of Ganjar’s volunteer groups came from Jokowi’s own volunteer [groups]. As such, [they] will certainly care about what is happening in the Jokowi administration,” Juliant said on Thursday.

Juliant also dismissed concerns of building tensions between supporter camps at the grassroots level, saying that he, along with the heads of Ganjar’s other volunteer groups, would continue to heed his instructions of refraining from attacking and bullying supporters of other presidential nominees and not to spread misinformation and hate speech.


Another divisive election

That supporters of Prabowo and Ganjar are already gunning for each other while the campaign season is still months away is evidence that the 2024 election will be another divisive one, said political researcher Firman Noor of the National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN).

“There has definitely been rising tensions at the grassroots level. While it’s impossible to predict how bad things will be [closer to the elections], all signs are pointing out that things will only become more heated.” Firman said on Thursday.

Part of the reason, Firman went on to say, is the irreconcilable differences between grassroots supporters of Gerindra and the PDI-P after 10 years of being pitted against each other, making any sort of alliance between the two parties looking increasingly unlikely.

Read also: PDI-P takes swipe at Prabowo over divisive Ukraine peace plan

Meanwhile, the Centre for Strategic and International Studies’ (CSIS) Arya Fernandes said both Ganjar’s and Prabowo’s camps have started to “sharpen their knives” to prepare for a second election round against each other; an increasingly likely scenario since presidential hopeful Anies Baswedan’s electability continues to plummet.

Read also: Anies’ alliance showing cracks under pressure to name running mate

“Each camp is also fighting [for their preferred presidential candidate] to be seen as Jokowi’s favorite,” Arya said on Thursday. (ahw)


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