On August 9, the surprising announcements by both President Joko Widodo and Gerindra chairman Prabowo Subianto’s regarding their choice of running mates in the 2019 presidential election dramatically changed the dynamics of the race from almost anything analysts had previously predicted.
Now, the results first major survey of potential voters polled after the running mate announcements were made have been revealed, and they indicate that while the incumbent still holds a major advantage over Prabowo (as in previous polls), the demographic shifts among their voters could herald major shifts in campaign strategies.
The Indonesian Survey Circle (LSI) today released the results of a voter survey held from August 12-19. Based on a head-to-head match, 52.2% of voters would pick President Jokowi and his running mate, Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) leader Ma’ruf Amin, while 29.5% would pick Prabowo and his running mate, former Jakarta vice governor and businessman Sandiaga Uno.
About 18.3% of respondents said they were undecided or did not wish to state who they planned on voting for, indicating a large swing vote that could be wooed by either ticket before April. LSI’s poll data is based on face-to-face interviews with 1,200 participants chosen through multi-stage random sampling from August 12-19. LSI researcher Adjie Alfaraby said that the Jokowi-Ma’ruf ticket polling above 50% was a very good sign for the candidates.
“The Jokowi-Ma’ruf pair achieved the magic number, above 50%, almost the same as the percentage of votes that Jokowi acquired in the 2014 presidential election,” Adjie said at a press conference today as quoted by Detik.
Jokowi and his current vice president, Jusuf Kalla, earned 53.15% of the vote in 2014. In terms of demographics, LSI’s survey data seems to bear out the theory that having MUI leader Ma’ruf Amin as his running mate would help Jokowi attract Muslim voters, with Adjie saying that Jokowi-Ma’ruf earned the support of 52.7% percent of Muslim voters compared to 27.9% for Prabowo-Sandiaga.
But when it came to non-Muslim voters, the difference was much smaller, with Jokowi-Ma’ruf earning 47.5% compared to Prabowo-Sandiaga with 43.6% “The difference is small. This is quite important because a population of just 10% percent will decide who wins or loses. We learned that in the 2014 presidential election and Pak Jokowi won the minority vote by a landslide then,” Adjie said.
Indeed, many have voiced concerns about Jokowi’s choice of Ma’ruf Amin, who has a history of supporting policies that discriminate against the country’s religious minorities. But the unfortunate reality is that a small percentage of non-Muslim voters lost pales in comparison to a small increase in the percentage of Muslim voters, given the country’s demographics.
Will we see Jokowi make attempts to alleviate the concerns of minorities worried about his running mate, or even overtures made by Prabowo to pick up their votes? The latter would certainly be a reversal of what many political observers had predicted the Gerindra chairman’s primary campaign strategy would be, but with Jokowi’s PDI-P party now saying it is open to an endorsement by controversial Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) leader Rizieq Shihab, we might actually see the government coalition become the more attractive choice for hardline Islamic conservatives (a possibility that was unthinkable until recently).