Indonesia’s Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto widens lead in presidential race, survey shows

Nazarudin Latif
Indonesia’s Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto widens lead in presidential race, survey shows Indonesia’s Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto, one of three candidates in the 2024 presidential race, delivers his remarks during the opening session of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Defense Ministers Meeting in Jakarta, Nov. 15, 2023.
[Dita Alangkara/Pool via Reuters]

Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto and his running mate widened their lead in the 2024 presidential race, a new poll held after the candidates’ first televised debates showed.

Prabowo and his vice presidential pick, the Indonesian president’s eldest son, Gibran Rakabuming Raka, got 46.7% of the vote in the survey conducted by Indikator Politik over the weekend.

The ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle’s presidential nominee, former Central Java Gov. Ganjar Pranowo, and his running mate, Mohammad Mahfud MD, followed with 24.5%.

Former Jakarta Gov. Anies Baswedan and his running mate, Muhaimin Iskandar, trailed at 21%.

The survey polled 1,217 respondents across Indonesia on Dec. 23-Dec. 24. Indonesians will on Feb. 14, 2024,  elect the successor to Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, who is constitutionally barred from seeking a third term. 

In the first debate – the presidential one – on Dec. 12, Anies impressed 35.5% of respondents as the best and most eloquent candidate. Prabowo trailed with 28.9% and Ganjar with 26.9%, Indikator said.

But Prabowo was seen as the candidate with the most solid program on the debate.

The survey also found that except for Central Java, where Ganjar has the edge, Prabowo dominates all regions of Indonesia. 

He has the support of all ethnic groups as well, except for the staunchly-Muslim Minang people in West Sumatra, who favor Anies, it said.

The survey found that 7.8% of respondents were undecided or swing voters, who could influence the outcome of the election.

“If [Prabowo-Gibran] managed to capture most of the swing voter base, they could avoid a run-off,” Burhanuddin Muhtadi, the director of Indikator, told reporters on Tuesday.

Indonesia’s presidential election system requires a runoff between the top two candidates if no one secures more than 50% of the votes in the election.

Burhanuddin said that the second and third places were too close to call, as Ganjar and Anies were within the 2.9% margin of error of the survey. 

He said that either of them could join Prabowo in the runoff if the election is not decided in one round.

Indonesian vice-presidential candidate and Solo Mayor Gibran Rakabuming Raka, the eldest son of Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, waves after registering himself for next year's presidential election, in Jakarta, Oct. 25, 2023. [Willy Kurniawan/Reuters]

Voter dynamic ‘always shifting’

Prabowo and Gibran have gained more support from the public because of Jokowi’s popularity, said Wasisto Raharjo Jati, a political analyst at the National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN). 

“The presidential race is always changing, especially with the undecided voters who have not made up their minds,” he said.

He added that the candidates would try to win over the swing voters to either catch up or secure their victory.

“I cannot say for sure that it will be one round because the voter dynamics are always shifting [and will] until the last minute before Feb. 14,” he said.

However, Prabowo appears to be the clear frontrunner. 

Various other surveys released this month and conducted before the debates also showed him ahead of his rivals in the race.

The 72-year-old retired general, who was accused of human rights violations during the Suharto dictatorship and the 1998 riots, had been Jokowi’s main rival in the past two elections, losing narrowly in both. 

Now, Prabowo is believed to have Jokowi’s backing after choosing his son Gibran as his running mate, even though the president has not publicly revealed his preferences.

Poltracking Indonesia gave Prabowo 45.2% of the vote, followed by Ganjar with 27.3%, and Anies with 23.1%. 

According to a Litbang Kompas poll, Prabowo led with 39.3% of the vote, while Anies had 16.7% and Ganjar had 15.3%. 

Meanwhile, Gibran exceeded some expectations during his debut on the national stage Friday as he squared off against seasoned politicians Mahfud and Muhaimin in the vice presidential debate. 

Gibran, 36, the mayor of Solo, has been criticized as a novice and privileged politician who benefits from his father’s popularity and influence. 

His candidacy is widely seen as a continuation of his father’s legacy. 

Gibran’s bid has attracted controversy because of a perceived conflict of interest and accusations of nepotism in a court decision that enabled him to run for vice president.

During the debate, he outlined plans for further industrialization and addressed the pressing issues of digital policy and economic growth while stressing the importance of cybersecurity and data protection.

Two more presidential debates and an additional vice presidential debate are set to be held before the election.


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