Webinar on “2020 Pilkada: Regional Elections Amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic”

In this webinar, Dr Deasy Simandjuntak, Dr Syafiq Hasyim and Mr Made Supriatma shared their observations of the recent local regional elections held in Indonesia, specifically focusing on three key cities, Medan, South Tangerang and Solo. Looking at the quick count results from these three areas, the speakers also discussed the outcomes of the elections and the effects of dynastic politics in influencing the voting patterns among voters in these areas.


Tuesday, 15 December 2020 – ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute featured three speakers, Dr Deasy Simandjuntak (Associate Fellow, ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute and Visiting Fellow at Center for Asia-Pacific Area Studies, Academia Sinica, Taipei), Dr Syafiq Hasyim (Visiting Fellow, ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute and Director of the Library and Cultural Center at International Indonesian Islamic University (UIII)) and Mr Made Supriatma (Visiting Fellow, ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute), to speak in a webinar titled “2020 Pilkada: Regional Elections amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic”. Moderated by Dr Siwage Dharma Negara (Senior Fellow and Co-Coordinator of Indonesia Studies Programme, ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute), the three speakers presented their opinions about the regional local elections and discussed how dynastic politics was played out in the entire election process for the three identified cities.

Dr Deasy Simandjuntak, Dr Syafiq Hasyim and Mr Made Supriatma
Dr Deasy Simandjuntak, Dr Syafiq Hasyim and Mr Made Supriatma shared their opinions on Pilkada. The session was moderated by Dr Siwage Dharma Negara. (Credit: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)
Dr Deasy Simandjuntak
Dr Deasy Simandjuntak introduced the election landscape in Medan and analysed how the addition of Jokowi’s son-in-law, Bobby Nasution generated dynastic politics within Medan. (Credit: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)

Dr Deasy Simandjuntak started off the first presentation of this webinar by introducing Medan’s voters’ demographics, the main political parties present within Medan as well as the coalitions and contenders competing in the 2020 mayoral elections. She also analysed and elaborated on the election results for Medan by first highlighting the high voter turnout that was observed for this year’s regional elections (at 55% as compared to 25% and 38% in 2010 and 2015 respectively). Dr Deasy elaborated on this observation by drawing attention back to the political situations in 2010 and 2015 where mayors in Medan were arrested due to corruption, generating apathy among the voters which resulted in the low voters turnout. She also argued that the addition of Bobby Nasution, who is a new face in the political field and Jokowi’s son-in-law, could have assisted in increasing the turnout rate for this year’s elections which could have contributed to his victory in the region. Dr Deasy pointed out some key evidence to justify this statement, first by listing down the strengths and weakness in each contender’s campaigns and identifying how Bobby’s connection with President Jokowi is an advantageous aid to his victory. She believed that the popularity of Bobby Nasution among Medan’s voters was primarily due to a perspective that Medan would stand to benefit more with Bobby Nasution as the Mayor of Medan as he embodied a possible connection with the central government due to his personal ties. In contrast, the incumbent, Akhyar Nasution, was being associated as part of the ‘corrupted, underperforming bureaucracy’ in Medan and that perception could have shifted some of the voters to Bobby in this year’s elections. Dr Deasy, therefore, felt that while Medan has gained proximate relations with the central government through Bobby’s victory, the benefits that Bobby promised to deliver would be hard to determine at this point in time.

Dr Syafiq Hasyim
Dr Syafiq Hasyim elaborated and discussed the factors that lead to the longstanding practice of dynastic politics in South Tangerang. (Credit: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)

Dr Syafiq Hasyim began the 2nd presentation of this webinar by first introducing the historical background of Banten before proceeding to elaborate on how dynastic politics played a key significant part in South Tangerang’s regional elections. For South Tangerang, there were three pairs of political candidates contesting in the area, each of which had some forms of political connections with both the Banten’ local dynasty as well as current political leaders (mainly with Prabowo, the Defense Minister of Indonesia and Ma’ruf Amin, the current Vice-President of Indonesia). Based on that, South Tangerang’s regional election was seen as a clear example of different dynasties competing with each other. The quick count results have reviewed that Benyamin Davnie and Pilar Saga, who are part of the Banten’s local dynasty had emerged victorious for this year’s regional elections. Dr Syafiq Hasyim, therefore, argued that the victory of Benyamin Davine -Pilar Saga pair was viewed as an unchallenged victory for the local Banten dynasty amidst other dynasties present in this election. Apart from that, he also attributed the pair’s victory to the long-standing presence of the local dynasty in the area as well as the influence of its previous mayor, Airin who had successfully led the area for the two terms. Her effectiveness as the leader of Banten has given the precursor for the winning streak of the Banten dynasty in this current election. Dr Syafiq Hasyim thus concluded that while multiple factors could have sustained the dynastic politics in South Tangerang, the voters’ preferences to maintain status quo due to effective leadership of past leaders could also play a part in sustaining the local dynasty in the region.

Mr Made Supriatma
Mr Made Supriatma discussed how Jokowi’s son, Gibran Rakabuming, was able to gain victory in Solo’s regional elections. (Credit: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)

Mr Made Supriatma presented his session on the election process in Solo and discussed how Gibran Rakabuming, who is the first son of President Jokowi, was able to secure his landslide win as mayor of Solo against his competitor, Bagyo Wahyono, an independent candidate. He began his presentation by introducing the two contenders for Solo’s regional election and drew a comparison between the two candidates’ campaigns. Mr Made Supriatma elaborated on Gibran Rakabuming’s path to candidacy and highlighted the extent in which he was able to include almost all of the political parties in Solo under his coalition (supported by 40 seats out of 45 seats in Solo’s DPRD). His campaign was also more targeted toward the millennials, with much of his campaigning being done using social media and was thus able to draw much of the attention from younger voters. Bagyo Wahyono, on the other hand, was an independent candidate with a campaigning style that was more traditional and targeted to the general masses, using mainly door-to-door and community campaigning as his preferred methods. This could have limited his outreach to the voters as the COVID-19 pandemic had prevented any forms of rallies and face-to-face meetings. Mr Made Supriatma, therefore, argued that Gibran was able to have an easy election win mainly because of his connection with the Jokowi’s dynasty and a presence of a weak opponent who had paved the way for his win. His win as Mayor of Solo could be the start of a political dynasty, which raises questions as to whether dynastic connections would become a key feature in Indonesia’s politics in the future.

The webinar drew an audience of 58 participants from both Singapore and abroad. During the question-and-answer session, a variety of issues were being raised which included the usage of identity politics in this year’s Pilkada; the possible differences in voters’ behaviours between those living in urban and rural areas; the idea of money politics being used in elections and whether President Jokowi’s endorsement for his son and son-in-law in this year’s local elections could have hurt his presidency. The session ended with each speaker giving their opinions on the effects of dynastic politics on the future of democracy in Indonesia.