Seminar on “Indonesia’s 2024 Elections: Java and Beyond”

In this hybrid seminar, Dr Deasy Simandjuntak, Mr Made Supriatma, and Dr Ian Wilson shared their analyses of the campaigning and unofficial results of Indonesia’s 14 February 2024 presidential and legislative elections. The three fellows presented key findings from their fieldwork in different provinces, namely North Sumatra, East and Central Java, and DKI Jakarta.


Tuesday, 20 February 2024 – ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute (ISEAS) invited Dr Deasy Simandjuntak, Mr Made Supriatma, and Dr Ian Wilson, Visiting Fellows at ISEAS, to present in a hybrid seminar on the results of Indonesia’s recent elections. Ms Julia Lau, Senior Fellow and Co-Coordinator of the Indonesia Studies Programme at ISEAS, moderated this session.

From left to right: Dr Ian Wilson, Ms Julia Lau (moderator), Mr Made Supriatm and Dr Deasy Simandjuntak. (Credit: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)

Dr Deasy Simandjuntak began by comparing the results of the 2019 and 2024 legislative elections in North Sumatra. The results were similar with the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), Golkar, and Gerindra party consistently gaining the highest votes. Dr Simandjuntak saw a voting pattern which suggested that going from the 2019 to 2024 polls, there was a diminishing role of religiously-based voting and a reduction in polarisation. She elaborated on some possible factors behind this shift, such as the weakening power of the conservative Islamist groups following their disbandment under President Joko Widodo’s administration and the Nahdlatul Ulama’s membership being split in their allegiances between the various candidate pairs for 2024. Dr Simandjuntak also explained how voters in North Sumatra formed their political preferences. Some voters and local leaders sought closeness to the central government in Jakarta to develop North Sumatra. Other voters were shaped by their cultural preferences, such as the Batak ethnic groups which made up the majority of the population in North Sumatra. They were thus attracted to the image of frontrunner candidate (and presumptive president-elect) Prabowo Subianto as a strong leader.

Mr Made Supriatma highlighted several key findings from his interviews with ground supporters and local leaders mainly in Central Java and Daerah Istimewa (Special Territory, DI) Yogyakarta provinces and also touched on East Java. First, Mr Supriatma assessed how President Widodo’s support for the Prabowo Subianto-Gibran Rakabuming Raka campaign, exemplified by the reported use of state apparatuses and the bureaucracy, as well as corruption or intimidation, were political weapons. Second, the absence of debates on human rights issues in this election seemed to be because most young voters, comprising Generation Z and Millennials, were not interested in the issue. Third, Mr Supriatma analysed how the defeat of Ganjar Pranowo even in PDI-P strongholds was due to the alleged operations carried out to threaten Ganjar’s supporters, which included local activists and village heads. 

Dr Ian Wilson pointed out how money politics shaped the way the presidential and electoral campaigns were carried out. Dr Wilson specifically analysed the urban poor, as well as Partai Buruh (Labour Party) and their manoeuvres in the capital, Jakarta. The urban poor network, which has long been advocating for land security and reform, engaged in what Dr Wilson termed an informal “political contract” with the government or whoever was expected to win the election. Seeing how limited such political engagement was, Partai Buruh serves as a political vehicle to gain representation for the urban poor constituency in the national and local parliaments. However, without adequate campaign and political financing, Partai Buruh formed small teams that went door-to-door in neighbourhoods, particularly in those with unclear land statuses. Unfortunately, a deeply entrenched idea among the constituencies remains that political representation is highly transactional.

The hybrid seminar drew an in-person audience of 31 participants and 121 online participants from Singapore and abroad. One audience question asked about the effectiveness of the student-led movement to ensure that the 2024 elections were conducted in a free and fair manner. The speakers agreed that although the impact of the moral movement was still limited, it could serve as a lesson for elections in the future.  Other issues discussed during the Question and Answer session included the possibility of the losing parties joining a “big tent” coalition as Prabowo had envisaged during his campaign. As the situation on the ground remains fluid, given that the official election results will not be finalised until 20 March 2024, the ongoing horse-trading among the elite will continue and intensify even up to October (when Widodo will step down and Prabowo will take over as president). There was a brief discussion on the role of social media, which has tremendously influenced the way recent electoral campaigns in Indonesia have been carried out. Social media has its limitations when confronted by the ground operations of political campaigns. Last, the panel discussed the seeming decline of identity politics in Indonesia. All speakers noticed that for the 2024 elections, various political figures tried to disassociate themselves from their past involvement in identity politics, especially Prabowo and his opponent Anies Baswedan.

(Credit: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)