Popularity no guarantee for Ganjar, Anies in 2024 race

Projections show a growing divide between what analysts think the public wants in the upcoming election and what the ruling coalition is trying to achieve.

Yerica Lai and A. Muh. Ibnu Aqil

Yerica Lai and A. Muh. Ibnu Aqil

The Jakarta Post


West Java Governor Ridwan Kamil (left), Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan (center) and Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo pose for a photo session on Feb. 19, 2020. The three governors will end their terms this year or next year and be replaced by acting governors.(Instagram of /Ridwan Kamil)

February 6, 2023

JAKARTA – The 2024 presidential election will likely go down to the wire if contested under the current political constellation, the Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting (SMRC) pollster has predicted, with popular Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo facing stiff competition from the equally favored former Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan.

These projections have underscored a growing divide between what analysts believe the general public wants in the upcoming election and what the ruling coalition is trying to achieve to make things work in its favor.

Extrapolating from the results of a poll it did in December, SMRC predicted that the race for the nation’s top job would go to two rounds if four of the most electable presidential hopefuls were to run.

“Seeing the current trend, Anies would likely face Ganjar in the second round. This would be much like our first presidential election in 2004, where there were more than two candidates and two rounds,” SMRC founder Saiful Mujani said in a statement on Thursday.

Based on the pollster’s survey results, Ganjar would lead the first round of balloting with about 32.4 percent of the vote, followed by Anies at 26.8 percent.

They would proceed to a second round after trumping Gerindra Party chairman Prabowo Subianto, whose electability is in decline, and Golkar chairman Airlangga Hartanto, who is near the bottom of the rankings.

The second round of the election would probably be a tight race, Saiful said, with Ganjar projected to receive 43.3 percent of the votes against Anies’ 40.5 percent, practically a tie considering the 3.1 percent margin of error.

While Saiful noted that Anies was currently the more popular option, Ganjar would more likely get the votes (52.4 percent electability) if they were both on an equal footing.

However, this scenario hinges on whether the two figures will be able to run at all in the upcoming election. Saiful said this would depend on whether political parties were willing to accept “the aspirations of the general public”.

Potential forfeit

By law, presidential nominees are appointed by political parties, although the contenders are put to the popular vote. But political jostling among the elites has intensified in the lead up to the 2024 elections, leaving the public with little say in who should become the nation’s next leader.

Dedi Kurnia Syah, director executive of Indonesia Political Opinion, said that there was no guarantee that popular figures like Ganjar and Anies could secure a presidential ticket from the parties.

The reason for this is because neither are regarded as being part of the elite, with Dedi singling out Anies’ bid as particularly shaky.

“Even though Anies’ popularity and electability remains high, he is not involved in decision making at a party level,” the analyst said.

“His presidential bid could still fail, especially since lately there has been some […] pressure from the President and the ruling party being applied on NasDem since it nominated Anies as its candidate.”

The former education minister is not a card-carrying member of any political party. However, he still has managed to secure backing from ruling coalition member NasDem and two opposition parties, the Democratic Party and the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS).

Altogether the three parties control enough seats in the House of Representatives to nominate a candidate pairing, as per the 20 percent presidential threshold requirement.

However, their alliance is looking increasingly shaky because the parties have yet to agree on a running mate for Anies, who remains the strongest challenger to run against any pro-government nominees.

NasDem’s recent maneuvers, forging an alliance with the opposition on the one hand, and seeking to mend ties with President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s ruling coalition amid a perceived falling out on the other, has fueled speculation that the party could yet drop its nomination of Anies.

Meanwhile for Ganjar, a nomination would depend on whether Anies runs, with Deni noting that the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) is waiting to see who will be its eventual rivals.

Able to field its own candidate pairing due to being the 2019 election winner, the PDI-P is still more likely to nominate its heir apparent, House Speaker Puan Maharani, over fellow party member Ganjar.

“If Anies comes out as its rival and the party also has to contest against Prabowo, it would be hard for it to win with Puan, whose electability trails far behind Ganjar,” Deni told The Jakarta Post on Friday.

On the other hand, if Anies is not fielded alongside Democratic Party chairman Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, it is very likely that the PDI-P would nominate Puan as its presidential candidate.

“We know that [PDI-P matriarch Megawati Soekarnoputri] and [Agus’ father former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono] have quite the rocky relationship. It is very unlikely Megawati will personally welcome such a move, and seeing Yudhoyono succeed in bringing his son into the race would prompt her to do the same with her daughter Puan,” the analyst said.

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