Jokowi & Prabowo gunning for youth vote this Indonesian election

Going out of their way to win young voters over.

Kayla Wong | April 15, 02:09 am


Indonesia is full of young people.

And they hold the key in the upcoming Indonesian presidential election on April 17.

Relatively young electorate

According to the General Elections Commission (KPU), the electorate is about 193 million people.

Some 104 million people, or 53.8 percent of the electorate, is made up of Indonesians aged 40 and below.

And millennials, who are those aged between 17 and 35, make up more than a third of the electorate, Reuters recently reported.

Tricky demographic

These young voters can be tricky to engage with.

According to The Jakarta Post, young voters are more concerned with issues about the economy and their future.

This is despite religion-based politics having dominated the elections in the country with the world’s largest Muslim population.

Faced with such a demographic, the incumbent, Joko Widodo, also popularly known as Jokowi, and his rival, Prabowo Subianto, have to prove to the young population that they are more suited for the top job than the other.

And one of their challenges is to convince the young voters that they can create enough jobs.

This is what both candidates have pledged to do should they win the election.

Targeting the youth vote

According to Bloomberg, Widodo has promised to create more than 100 million jobs in the next five years.

The “Father of Infrastructure”, as his supporters call him, has also pledged to boost government expenditure on education and invest in human capital development, having previously worked on infrastructure development.

Meanwhile, the former general Prabowo pledged to drive economic growth by reducing taxes for both corporations and individuals, and increase the country’s self-reliance in food and energy industries.

Wooing young voters


Reuters reported that Widodo is often seen wearing jeans and brightly-coloured sneakers.

His team also uses data from social media activity on the election to decide which pop-culture reference Widodo should use next in his speech.

He has already referenced Game of Thrones and the Avengers in his speeches.

Widodo also uses social media to his advantage, having uploaded a vlog of him at a lunch with Saudi King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud onto his own YouTube channel.

The video was well-received by netizens and went viral.

He also sang along to Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody with a popular local YouTuber.


As for Prabowo, his outfit at campaign rallies consists of aviator sunglasses and a khaki shirt.

This is to supposedly soften his image, according to Reuters.

Analysts also say he is perceived to be less popular among the younger population, partly due to the strongman image he gives off from his role as a army general under Suharto, the second president of Indonesia.

However, that might not entirely be the case.

Prabowo recently appeared to be chipping away at Widodo’s lead in the polls, according to Nikkei Asian Review, thanks to rising religiosity among young Indonesians.

His team had also posted a picture of him with his cat, Bobby, which endeared him to the online crowd.

Subsequently, they also created an Instagram account for his cat.

View this post on Instagram

Pawfam, I'm a peaceful and noble k4t. We made our point. And I am proud of pawfam semua, semuanya great souls…💜🇲🇨🐈 Bobby take down 4 posting sebelumnya, dan yakin bahwa #AdaAllah – Yang tadinya teguran, sudah berubah menjadi banyak sekali kata2 makian. Which is not good. We strive to achieve true love. Bobbythek4t is a noble k4t yang uphold semua nilai2 pejuang pendiri bangsa Indonesia, khususnya keluarga Djojohadikusumo – Sigar 🇲🇨🐈 We won the battle. Soal permintaan maaf sudah tidak penting lagi, biarlah jadi catatan untuk pribadi terkait. Mari songsong masa depan Indonesia dibawah pemerintahan Prabowo-Sandi🇲🇨💜💜💜 yang segera akan datang. Ada masa puluhan generasi kedepan yang harus dijaga bersama2. "The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong." – Mahatma Gandhi And, indeed for as long as I live… I will defend truth and honor! Bobbythek4t is a strong k4t! 🇲🇨🐈For God made my paws strong. And i love my adopter @prabowo soo much. Tetap semangat semua! Jangan biarkan Para Durno, Kurawa dan Cakil menguasai Indonesia. #bobbythek4t #noblesseoblique #noblek4t p.s. Let's march to a bright future! Meowwwrrdekaa!

A post shared by Bobby The K4T (@bobbythek4t) on

“Millennials party”

A party that is gaining traction among young Indonesians is Indonesian Solidarity Party (PSI).

Set up in 2014, it is one of the four parties that the KPU allowed to compete in the presidential and legislative elections.

The party, led by former television presenter Grace Natalie, is close to the incumbent Widodo.

So close, in fact, that is is seen by some to be part of his strategy to win over young voters, according to Lowy Institute.

Known for their active social media campaign that many young Indonesians are drawn to, they have earned themselves the nickname “millennials party”.

However, despite their growing popularity among young voters, they face a challenge ahead — they have to obtain at least seven million votes nationally in order to pass the 4 percent parliamentary threshold of votes needed to be selected in the House of Representatives.

Young, disillusioned & choosing to abstain

But while young voters make for a potentially influential force in the election, the sway they hold might be limited due to their non-participation.

To young Indonesians who are politically apathetic or find neither presidential candidate appealing, due to reasons such as disappointment in their competency or their human rights record, an alternative option for them is to abstain from voting instead.

These abstainers are known as golput, which literally means “white camp”.

The term refers to voters who turn in the white part of a voting slip.

And most golput are young people under the age of 30, according to Tempo.

A recent survey by Jakarta-based pollster Indikator Politik had predicted that at least 20 percent of voters are going to abstain from voting in the election.

Getting people to vote

But it hasn’t always been the case for these golput to abstain from voting.

In fact, most of these golput are those who supported Widodo in the 2014 presidential election, political analyst Arya Fernandes told South China Morning Post (SCMP).

Recognising the potential influence these voters have in tipping the election result in Widodo’s favour, they have urged the golput to vote.

In a bid to get them to cast their ballots, Wiranto, a leading figure in Widodo’s camp, said that anyone caught telling others not to vote on social media will be prosecuted.

He had also referred to these golput as “troublemakers”.

Indonesia’s highest clerical body, Majelis Ulama Indonesia (MUI), which is chaired by Widodo’s running mate, had also reiterated their stance that abstaining from voting is haram (forbidden).


However, these political figures might face a tough time trying to get these golput to change their minds.

According to SCMP, no fewer than 32 national organisations had declared over the weekend that they were going to be golput, and that their 30 million members should not vote too.

The golput movement is picking up on social media as well, with the hashtag #SayaGolput (I am Golput) springing up in response to the mainstream narrative that every person has to vote.

Such a problem is compounded by logistical difficulties too, such as the millions of non-registered voters who live in faraway places, which might contribute to a lower turnout than expected.

Top image adapted via Presiden Joko Widodo/FBPrabowo Subianto/FB

About Kayla Wong

Kayla's dog runs her life.

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