Results of regional elections in Indonesia appear to bode well for President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo in a presidential campaign set to begin later this year, although the party of challenger Prabowo Subianto is gaining ground, analysts said Thursday.
Voters chose gubernatorial candidates allied with the incumbent president in most of Indonesia’s most populated provinces – including West Java, Central Java, East Java, and South Sulawesi – quick counts by polling organizations released after Wednesday’s polls showed. Official results will be released July 9.
“Ridwan Kamil yesterday expressed support for Jokowi in 2019,” said Asep Warlan Yusuf, a political analyst at Parahyangan University in Bandung. “This has become political capital for Jokowi,” he told BenarNews
Ridwan, representing three minor political parties, is the unofficial governor-elect of Indonesia’s most populous province, West Java, with 31.7 million voters.
The former mayor of Bandung narrowly defeated Sudrajat, the candidate supported by Prabowo’s party, 32 percent to 29 percent, in a field with four teams competing, according to the quick counts.
West Java had been seen as the base of support for the Greater Indonesia Party (Gerindra) and its sole ally to date, the conservative Muslim Prosperous Justice Party (PKS).
Yet victory for Jokowi in the province and elsewhere in April 2019 is not assured, according to Adi Prayitno, executive director of Indonesian Political Parameter.
Initials surveys showed Sudrajat and running mate Ahmad Syaiku winning only nine percent of the vote, so the outcome of 29 percent was surprising, Adi said.
In Central Java, a Jokowi stronghold with 27 million voters, Sudirman Said, the candidate supported by opposition parties put up a stiff challenge to incumbent Ganjar Pranowo. Ganjar ultimately held on to power, taking 58 percent of votes to Sudirman’s 41 percent.
“This proves that Gerindra’s political machine is working,” he said.
Gerindra candidate Edy Rahmayadi won in North Sumatra, Indonesia’s fourth largest province, beating rival Djarot Saiful Hidayat, who had served as deputy governor of Jakarta under Basuki Tjahaja “Ahok” Purnama, quick counts showed.
Campaigning officially kicks off in late September ahead of an April 17, 2019 national election in which more than 186 million Indonesians will have the opportunity to vote for president and their representatives in the national parliament.
Although he has not made any public statement about it, Jokowi is widely expected to seek a second five-year term. His only declared challenger thus far is Prabowo.
None of Indonesia’s 20 currently registered parties meets the threshold of 112 seats in parliament to nominate a candidate on its own, so both candidates need allies.
Results of Wednesday’s voting may discourage other candidates from entering the race, according to Muradi, a political expert at Padjadjaran University in West Java.
He noted that the candidate backed by former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party, which has yet to form allegiances, was defeated in West Java.
“If the Democrats had won, the party would think it has big voters in West Java and would dare to lobby other parties to bring their own candidates in the presidential election and change the 2019 political map,” Muradi told BenarNews.
On Wednesday, up to 152 million voters were eligible to choose 17 governors, 39 mayors and 115 district chiefs in races in various parts of the archipelago, ranging from Papua, Indonesia’s easternmost province on New Guinea island, to westernmost Aceh on the tip of Sumatra. Indonesia’s election commission has not yet released voter turnout figures.
Indonesia has been on edge following a string of terrorist attacks in May including suicide bombings at churches and a police station in Surabaya. But despite warnings that extremists might target voting booths, and following a rash of arrests in recent days, voting unfolded mostly peacefully across Indonesia.
The exception was in restive Papua, where gunmen ambushed a group of officials who were about to go home after monitoring voting in a district of remote Puncak Jaya regency. Two police officers and a sub-district chief were shot dead, police spokesman Boy Rafli Amar told reporters in the provincial capital, Jayapura, on Thursday.
On Monday, gunmen killed three civilians and injured two others soon after shooting at a plane in Keneyam airport in Nduga regency – the same airport where gunmen shot at a plane three days earlier, injuring the co-pilot. No group has claimed responsibility for the aircraft shootings.
A low-level secessionist movement has simmered for decades in Papua and West Papua, Indonesia’s easternmost provinces, which are among its poorest and least developed.