After a long, bitter, but largely uneventful campaign, Indonesians have finally had their say. Most reliable quick counts released on the night of the election suggest that President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo will be re-elected, with about 55 per cent of the vote. Predictions that Jokowi’s large lead in pre-election polls would narrow on election day appear to have been correct, but he still finished comfortably ahead of challenger Prabowo Subianto, who secured about 44 per cent of the vote.
It will take some time before the legislative results are finalised, but quick counts suggest that Jokowi’s party, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) has won about 20 per cent of the vote, followed by Prabowo’s political vehicle, Gerindra, which appears to have secured about 13 per cent.
Over recent weeks, Prabowo and his supporters have questioned the credibility of election organisers, and said they would not accept the result if he lost. As yet, however, major disruptive protests have failed to eventuate. Nevertheless, there are likely to be significant complaints from the Prabowo camp until the General Elections Commission (KPU) releases the official results on 22 May. And this will no doubt be followed by multiple challenges to results in the Constitutional Court.
University of Melbourne experts offer their early thoughts on the results.
Professor Vedi Hadiz, Director of the Asia Institute, Assistant Deputy Vice-Chancellor International
It looks like all the polls were correct and Jokowi has quite comfortably defeated Prabowo for the second time. Those who fear more rapid democratic regression in Indonesia might now breathe a sigh of relief. However, what can we expect of a second Jokowi presidential term?
Second-term presidents are often expected to push for real reforms, especially given rules, such as in Indonesia, that limit these terms. But if Jokowi’s track record is anything to go by, one should perhaps keep expectations realistically in check. While there is room for him to push further on infrastructure, healthcare and poverty alleviation, it does not seem that he has the capacity – or the appetite – to really challenge the powers that be.
So more than anything, Jokowi’s victory is vindication of the current political system – a democracy yes, but one that that is deeply flawed. It is a democracy that is fuelled by corruption and has no reason to pay attention to human rights abuses, especially those suffered by a myriad of minority communities in Indonesia’s diverse society. Expectations of what Jokowi might achieve must be viewed firmly within these parameters, especially given the continued disorganisation and fragmentation of civil society-based groups pushing for reformist agendas.
Professor Tim Lindsey, Director of the Centre for Indonesian Law, Islam and Society (CILIS), Melbourne Law School
President Jokowi’s convincing 10-point victory over Prabowo Subianto doesn’t signal much change for fragile Australia-Indonesian relations. Jokowi is an inward-looking politician, with limited interest in international relations. He made it clear in his first term that he doesn’t see the relationship with Australia as “special”, unlike his predecessor, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
There is not much we can do about this. Despite our proximity, we have slashed our aid to Indonesia, are a low-ranked trading partner, and invest more in New Zealand, Luxembourg and other, smaller, Southeast Asian nations than we do in Indonesia. We are not politically and economically important there and have only limited leverage. When inevitable tensions arise, widespread popular mistrust and ignorance of the other country often fuels political posturing on both sides.
Of course, the recently signed Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership (IA-CEPA) is intended to change this by delivering much closer economic engagement, but that is by no means a given. IA-CEPA is still to be ratified, and for all its rhetoric of deregulation, Indonesia remains protectionist, with a track record of protecting politically powerful vested interests.
Jokowi and Prabowo’s parties (PDI-P and Gerindra) will likely be major players in the new legislature, and both are nationalist and often suspicious of foreign influence. They may well want IA-CEPA to undergo major amendment or just decide to dump it with other unratified international agreements on the legislature’s notoriously long “to do” list.
Dr Dave McRae, Senior Lecturer at the Asia Institute
After an election campaign lasting almost seven months, President Jokowi appears to have been re-elected with a status quo political base, albeit via a poll in which Islamic symbolism was much more prominent than in 2014. Jokowi’s personal victory margin over Prabowo may turn out to be several percent greater than in 2014, depending on where the actual result falls within the margin of error of the various quick counts showing Jokowi to be the victor. But even an increased margin is unlikely to translate to increased political capital for Jokowi – public approval was not his primary problem throughout his first term.
Nor are changes to the national legislature (DPR) after this election likely to ameliorate Jokowi’s difficulties in bargaining with his political party backers. Admittedly, in contrast to 2014, Jokowi is likely this time to have a majority coalition from the outset, and so will not face the prospect of the DPR’s leadership positions being dominated by opposition figures, as they were at the beginning of his first term. He may also end up with fewer coalition partners, as Hanura looks to have fallen below the 4 per cent legislative threshold, and the United Development Party (PPP) is only just above this 4 per cent figure in the various quick counts.
At a minimum, though, Jokowi’s coalition should still comprise about five members, and his decisions on policy and appointments are likely to remain contested. It remains to be seen also whether Prabowo will win concessions from Jokowi from his own claims of victory in the poll.
Additionally, Jokowi now faces the uncertainty of a new vice president chosen for his conservative Islamic credentials, and the influence Ma’ruf Amin may exert upon his government remains unclear.
Dr Rachael Diprose, lecturer in Development Studies at the School of Social and Political Sciences
Jokowi’s re-election is likely good news for ensuring women are appointed to senior leadership positions, given his track record of appointing nine women to powerful cabinet positions during his first term – in finance, the environment and forestry, state-owned enterprises, maritime and fisheries, and foreign affairs, to name a few. Jokowi took the opportunity to showcase these appointments and criticise Prabowo during the first presidential debate, pointing to the lack of women occupying senior leadership positions in his Gerindra Party. Caught somewhat off guard, Prabowo sought to downplay gender parity issues and emphasised populist notions that regardless of their gender, it was more important for political representatives to be “pro-people”.
What is yet to be seen, however, is how the stronger enforcement of the 30 per cent gender quota on parties will affect results in the 2019 legislative elections. Some parties struggled to fill this quota, raising questions as to both the quality of candidates put forward and whether parties sought to take up the spirit rather than just the letter of the law by giving their female candidates priority in party lists. There seems to be an emerging correlation between the likelihood that women are placed in first or second positions on party lists and whether they already occupy senior leadership positions in party structures.
If the parties that have put women higher up in candidate lists also gain a significant portion of the vote, then the enforcement of quotas may result in more women taking up office. This is especially important given that voters are making so many choices across so many ballot papers this time around and may be otherwise unfamiliar with candidates. Quick counts suggest PDI-P will capture the largest proportion of seats in the national legislature, followed by Gerindra and Golkar. PDI-P and Golkar have historically outperformed Gerindra and many of the other larger parties in giving priority to women on party lists. We may see more women in the national legislature and in the regions in the future.
Dr Ken Setiawan, Lecturer in Asian and Indonesian Studies at the Asia Institute
Jokowi’s win should come as a relief to liberal Indonesians and minority groups, many of whom were very concerned that an increase in golput voters would result in a decline in support for Jokowi and deliver the presidency to Prabowo. With conservative Islamists backing Prabowo, minorities have generally preferred Jokowi to Prabowo, even though the president has done little to strengthen protection of minority rights.
In terms of human rights, Jokowi’s first term was a disappointment. He broke promises to resolve past violations of human rights, made political appointments to key posts, and presided over a rise in persecution of minorities and a shrinking of the civil society space for liberal actors. Despite his weaknesses, he knew minorities would fall in behind him in the 2019 race so was never too concerned about making strong statements or promises in support of minority rights during this campaign.
The experience of Jokowi’s first term raises serious concerns about how much space the liberal human rights agenda will have over the next five years.
Dr Richard Chauvel, Honorary Fellow at the Asia Institute
Quick count results for the provinces of Papua and West Papua predict strong majorities for Jokowi-Ma’ruf Amin, at 84.09 per cent and 74.35 per cent, respectively. If these figures are reflected in the official results, Jokowi will have strengthened his support by over 10 points in Papua and 7 points in West Papua, compared with 2014.
It is too early to assess whether this increase in support for Jokowi is a reflection of the attention the president has paid Papua with his numerous visits to the region (including a campaign visit to the victims of floods in Sentani), or whether it reflects the still potent memories of Prabowo’s record of human rights abuses in the provinces. Although Papua Governor Lukas Enembe is head of the Democratic Party in Papua and notionally part of the coalition of parties supporting Prabowo, at the time of his (re)installation as governor last year, Enembe pledged all of Papua’s three million votes to Jokowi.
Given Papua’s infrastructure, the logistics and supply of election materials is always a challenge. It is unclear whether it was possible for voting to take place in Nduga, after significant numbers of people fled to surrounding districts following the killing of construction workers in early December and subsequent military operations. It seems that election materials were a problem much closer to the centre of power in Jayapura. When Governor Enembe attempted to vote at his local polling booth yesterday morning, officials were ready, but there were no voting materials.
Dr Ariane Utomo, Lecturer in Demography and Population Geography at the School of Geography
I felt apprehensive about voting this year. Over the past two years, Jokowi has demonstrated increasingly illiberal tendencies, politicising law enforcement to investigate or arrest prominent government critics. In the weeks approaching the election, there appeared to be growing momentum for the golput movement, whose proponents – in my view – had laid out solid arguments behind their reasons for abstaining, such as the lack of human rights progress during Jokowi’s first term, and his disappointing choice of running mate, Ma’ruf Amin.
I had my own concerns and reservations about the current administration but decided to remain cautiously hopeful about the democratic process in the weeks before election day. In particular, I had more serious concerns about what a Prabowo presidency might mean for Indonesian democracy. With a small group of female Indonesian scholars residing in Melbourne, I made the journey to the Indonesian Consulate on 13 April to cast my vote. I was pleasantly surprised to see the huge turnout in Melbourne and at many overseas polling stations. Quick counts released on Wednesday evening suggest a high turnout rate across Indonesia of about 80 per cent, and only a small percentage of spoiled ballots.
This high participation rate suggests that many other Indonesians, from both sides of politics, appear to trust and have faith in the progress of democracy.
Another interesting dynamic was the strong performance of the Indonesian Solidarity Party (PSI) in overseas polling stations. The party looks like it will fail to meet the legislative threshold of 4 per cent, but exit polls from foreign voting booths show its strong anti-corruption and minority rights messaging clearly resonated with Indonesians abroad.