Presidential contenders jostle for support in East Java

All three of the nation’s presidential hopefuls have visited East Java recently, where they met with important figures and grassroots volunteers in a bid to lure voters from the province, a key battleground in next year's election.

Dio Suhenda

Dio Suhenda

The Jakarta Post


Two men study the list of 2019 general election candidates posted on a bulletin board outside the General Elections Commission (KPU) office in Malang, East Java. PHOTO: THE JAKARTA POST

October 3, 2023

JAKARTA – All three of the nation’s presidential hopefuls have in recent days visited East Java, where they met with important figures and grassroots volunteers in a bid to lure voters from the country’s second most populous province, which is seen as a key battleground in next year’s election.

Presumptive nominees Anies Baswedan, whose presidential bid is backed by the pro-government NasDem Party and National Awakening Party (PKB), as well as the opposition Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), and Ganjar Pranowo of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), both went to East Java’s capital Surabaya over the weekend.

In Surabaya, Anies officiated the launch of a volunteer center located in the Ndresmo area, home to dozens of historic Islamic boarding schools.

Meanwhile, Ganjar, aside from greeting his supporters during a morning run on Sunday, met with undisclosed “special figures” during his trip to Surabaya. This was according to a statement made by PDI-P secretary-general Hasto Kristiyanto on Saturday, which analysts believe referred to East Java Governor Khofifah Indar Parawansa, who is affiliated with Nahdlatul Ulama (NU).

Read also: Megawati calls for resolute fight amid attempt to derail Ganjar’s presidential bid

Days before Anies and Ganjar visited East Java, Gerindra Party patron and presumptive presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto also made his way to the province. Gerindra secretary-general Ahmad Muzani said last week that Prabowo was in East Java to meet with “local figures” in his search for a running mate.

Home to some 41 million Indonesians, East Java is considered a battleground province in the leadup to the February polls, and NU – the country’s largest Muslim organization – has significant sway in the province.

The latest survey from Indikator Politik Indonesia, which polled 1,810 people across East Java from Sept.14 to 20, found that 79 percent of its Muslim respondents identified themselves as members of NU.

Close to half of the respondents who aligned themselves with NU also said that their presidential preferences could be swayed if NU was to publicly endorse a presidential candidate.

Presidential preferences

With East Java a key component in any presidential campaign, speculations are rife that both Ganjar and Prabowo are eyeing Khofifah as their running mate, particularly since she has a strong foothold in the province.

Anies, on the other hand, was the first presidential contender to place his bets on an NU-affiliated figure as his running mate. At a hotel in Surabaya last month, the former Jakarta governor announced his vice-presidential pick: Muhaimin Iskandar, who chairs the PKB, a party with strong support in East Java.

Read also: NasDem-PKB deal redraws alliances for 2024

Anies’ decision, however, has not caused his electability to rise among East Java voters according to the Indikator Indonesia survey, as he still languished in third at 14.4 percent in a three-horse race simulation.

Frontrunner Ganjar, on the other hand, scored an electability of 43.9 percent, while Prabowo sat in second with 33.8 percent. Even among respondents who identified as active members of NU, Anies still placed third, while Ganjar was the top pick.

“In the two to three weeks since Anies received the PKB’s support and even named Muhaimin as his running mate, there has not been any positive implication [on Anies’ electability],” Indikator Politik executive director Burhanuddin Muhtadi said during the launching of the survey on Sunday in Jakarta.

Commenting on Anies’ low electability, Muhaimin was quoted by as saying on Sunday that the pair expects their electability to rise soon, as they had only kick-started their campaign in East Java last week.

Vice-presidential pick

The survey also found that State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) Minister Erick Thohir was the most popular choice for vice president among voters in East Java, with an electability of 17.2 percent, from a total of 19 names.

He is closely followed by Khofifah, who had an electability of 15.1 percent, and Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Mahfud MD, with an electability of 11.5 percent. Muhaimin, meanwhile, trailed in seventh place, with an electability of just 4.9 percent.

Read also: Why NU is such a powerful force in 2024 election

Both Erick and Mahfud are seen as figures closely tied to NU, given the former is an honorary member of NU’s youth wing, while the latter, though not a card-carrying member, has been close to NU leadership for decades.

Even among respondents who identified themselves as members of NU, Muhaimin still placed outside of the top five most popular vice-presidential choices, while Khofifah leapfrogged Erick to nab first place.

When respondents were asked who they think would be the best figure to pair with both Ganjar and Prabowo, Erick came out as the most popular choice and Khofifah placed second in both simulations.

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