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Indonesia Gears Up for Historic Election Day 2024 with Youth Vote in Focus

by Violet Dawson
0 comment

Amidst the election’s fervour, debates over the role of political dynasties and the health of Indonesia’s democracy have taken center stage.

As Indonesia braces for one of the world’s largest election days on February 14, anticipation and scrutiny loom large over the democratic process in the world’s third-largest democracy. With approximately 205 million eligible voters set to cast their ballots, the outcome of the presidential election, along with the selection of executive and legislative representatives across administrative levels, will shape the nation’s trajectory.

Of particular significance is the demographic composition of the electorate, with more than half falling between the ages of 17 and 40, and nearly a third under 30. This youth demographic holds considerable sway over the election’s outcome, as candidates vie for their support through targeted outreach efforts.

The incumbent president, Joko Widodo, affectionately known as Jokowi, is constitutionally barred from seeking a third term, paving the way for a new leader to emerge. Leading the polls is Prabowo Subianto, a 72-year-old former military general and the incumbent defence minister. Prabowo’s supporters tout him as a strong and decisive leader capable of ensuring stability, pledging continuity with Jokowi’s development agenda.

However, Prabowo’s candidacy is not without controversy. Critics point to allegations of his involvement in human rights abuses, including the kidnapping and torture of pro-democracy activists in the late 1990s, as well as rights violations in regions like East Timor and Papua. Despite denying any wrongdoing and avoiding criminal charges, these allegations have shadowed his campaign.

In a bid to appeal to voters, Prabowo has sought to soften his image, showcasing a lighter side through humour and even dancing at rallies. This marks his third attempt at the presidency, having previously lost to Jokowi in 2014 and 2019. Notably, Prabowo’s candidacy this time is bolstered by his running mate, Gibran Rakabuming Raka, Jokowi’s eldest son, sparking debates about political dynasties.

Another prominent candidate is Anies Basdewan, a 54-year-old former academic and Jakarta governor, who represents a departure from Jokowi’s policies. Anies has positioned himself as an alternative to Jokowi’s agenda, notably opposing the ambitious project to relocate the capital city from Jakarta to Borneo. Running alongside Muhaimin Iskandar, leader of a major Islamic party, Anies has drawn support from conservative factions, emphasizing different priorities in governance.

Ganjar Pranowo, a 55-year-old former governor of Central Java, presents another contender from the Indonesia Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), the same party as Jokowi. With a focus on grassroots engagement, Ganjar aims to portray himself as a relatable figure in touch with the needs of ordinary citizens. However, controversies surrounding his tenure as governor, including disputes over development projects, have clouded his candidacy.

The presidential election hinges on candidates securing more than 50% of the vote to win outright. In the event of no clear winner, a runoff election between the top two contenders will be held in June, prolonging the electoral process.

Amidst the electoral fervour, debates over the role of political dynasties and the health of Indonesia’s democracy have taken center stage. Concerns linger among civil society groups about potential attempts to retain influence beyond Jokowi’s tenure, exemplified by his son Gibran’s candidacy for vice president and the ensuing controversy over eligibility criteria.

While candidates strive to address pressing issues like welfare and employment, there remains a gap in tailored policies addressing the specific concerns of young voters. Despite social media campaigns targeting youth engagement, there is a notable absence of substantive discussions on programs tailored to their demographic, with political gimmicks often overshadowing policy debates.

As Indonesia embarks on this historic electoral journey, the nation stands at a crossroads, with the aspirations and the priorities of its youthful electorate shaping the contours of its democratic future. With the world watching, the outcome of the election will reverberate far beyond its borders, underscoring the enduring significance of democratic governance in the region.

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