Young Indonesian voters expect more public discussions with elected president

Data from the General Elections Commission shows that some 52 per cent of the country’s 204 million total registered voters are younger than 40.


January 8, 2024

JAKARTA – Young voters, who will make up the majority of voters in February’s election, are hoping that the new president and vice president will keep public discussions alive to ensure grassroots aspirations are heard in the future.

“If you’re unwilling to listen to criticism, eventually, [people] will become apathetic [toward any incoming government],” 22-year-old student Mohammad Tegar Tsabitul, a registered voter in Jakarta, said last week, as quoted by Antara. “At the very least, [the elected president should] establish an institution to listen to grassroots voices.”

Data from the General Elections Commission (KPU) shows that some 52 percent of the country’s 204 million total registered voters are younger than 40. A third of all registered voters are millennials, while 22 percent belong to Generation Z.

With younger people comprising a majority of the voter roll, all three candidate pairs have tilted their campaign efforts toward young voters and have held dialogues with them ahead of the election.

Presidential candidate Anies Baswedan and running mate Muhaimin Iskandar, for example, have been hosting Desak Anies (challenge Anies) and Slepet Imin (hit Muhaimin) public discussions in various parts of the country to draw young people into policy discussions.

VP candidates from the other camps – Mahfud MD, the running mate to Ganjar Pranowo, and Gibran Rakabuming Raka of frontrunner Prabowo Subianto – were known to have turned to X to respond to public complaints regarding their respective jobs as coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs and Surakarta mayor.

Anies and Mahfud also recently made their debuts on popular video-sharing and live-streaming platform TikTok, hosting discussions during their live streams shortly before and on New Year’s Eve.

Read also: Presidential candidates venture into TikTok to win over young voters

Tegar, a senior at the Syarif Hidayatullah Islamic State University (UIN Jakarta) noted that there had been an increase in the number of conversations about the election, particularly among his peers.

“More people, from students to neighbors, are discussing or talking about [the election]. This year’s [election] seems to be more fun […],”Tegar said, adding that it was also easier to follow the conversations because of political gimmicks.

From breaking into dance during a political party gathering, to posting humorous social media content, the three candidate pairs have been promoting “politik gembira” (happy politics) to encourage a peaceful contest and make connections with young voters. But analysts have expressed concerns that the election could become a series of “theatrical gimmicks” rather than a battle of ideas.

This came amid condemnation from human rights defenders regarding Indonesia’s dwindling freedom of speech and a further worrying trend of democratic backsliding, as several government critics have been intimidated and reported to law enforcement for their statements ahead of the election.

Bryan Nandana Dzaki, a first-year student at the State University of Semarang, emphasized that elected candidates should keep their campaign promises, and he hopes they do their best to fulfill the people’s wishes.

“It’s clear that there is enthusiasm [for the election]. But we cannot just take all the information at face value. We have to look up the facts first,” Bryan said.

Civil society organizations have been encouraging stronger public awareness and participation in ensuring that the upcoming polls will be credibly organized.

A network of activists, academics, lawyers, entrepreneurs and students came together on Friday to launch, which will allow people to report suspected election fraud by election contenders and any foul play by election organizers or the state apparatus during the campaign season or when the votes are counted.

19-year-old Bryan said that he had not decided on a specific candidate and would wait to see all of the election debates before making his choice.

The KPU will host one more VP debate on 14 and one more presidential debate in early February.

A survey conducted by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) after the Dec. 12 presidential debate found that 10.9 percent of respondents were undecided and 24.8 percent of respondents who currently favored one candidate said they could still change their minds.

CSIS said that future election debates could play a “crucial part” in the presidential race, including determining “whether or not there would be a runoff”, given that the majority of swing voters in the CSIS survey said they were waiting to watch all the debates before reaching a final decision on the candidate they would vote for.

But pollster Indikator Politik Indonesia said the debates did not seem to have significantly influenced opinion polling figures given that more than half of the respondents in its own latest survey said they did not watch the first two debates. The survey was conducted after the vice presidential debate on Dec. 22.

Twenty-three-year old Rifky Renaldi, who studies at the Institute of Economic Science (STIE) Ekuitas Bandung, said the 2024 election was more interesting than previous elections given that Gibran, the youngest candidate to ever participate, was on the ballot.

“Whoever is elected, I hope [they] will give me opportunities to get a better career,” he said.

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