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Commentary: What you need to know about world’s biggest single-day election coming up in Indonesia

Indonesia, the world’s third-largest democracy, will hold the planet’s biggest one-day election next year.

Voters at a polling station in Tanah Abang, Jakarta, April 17, 2019.

Voters at a polling station in Tanah Abang, Jakarta, April 17, 2019.

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Indonesia, the world’s third-largest democracy, will hold the planet’s biggest one-day election next year.

More than 200 million voters in Indonesia and 1.75 million members of the Indonesian diaspora will go to the polls on Feb 14, 2024, to elect the country’s next president and vice president, as well as legislators and councillors at both national and regional levels.

The total number of voters expected accounts for 74 per cent of the total population of Southeast Asia’s largest economy.

The registration for presidential and vice-presidential candidates will be open from Oct 19 to Nov 25, 2023.

But already the names Anies Baswedan, Ganjar Pranowo, Prabowo Subianto have emerged as leading candidates who are expected to run. And many have predicted that Mr Anies, 53, will be the frontrunner in the race.


Mr Anies is a popular former governor of Jakarta who is endorsed by hardline Islamist groups. This support helped him win the 2017 Jakarta gubernatorial election.

Mr Anies does not represent a single political party, but his candidacy has been endorsed, so far, by Nasdem Party, Indonesia’s fifth-largest political party, Islamist-based Prosperous Justice Party and the opposition Democratic Party.

Together, the coalition holds a total of 25.03 per cent of parliamentary seats, more than the 20 per cent threshold required for a party or coalition of parties to be able to endorse a presidential candidate.

However, some experts have warned the coalition is weak and could easily break up and leave Mr Anies out in the cold.

A study (by Universitas Muhammadiyah Riau academics) has shown his political image remains positive with the majority of the population, thanks to media coverage. He is framed as intelligent, polite, firm and religious.

Another study (by two academics from Universitas Bhayangkara Jakarta Raya and Universitas Bina Sarana Informatika) indicates that Mr Anies has obtained the most public support of potential candidates ahead of the 2024 presidential election.

Mr Ganjar Pranowo, the Central Java governor, has secured a presidential ticket from his party, the Indonesia Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), the country’s largest political party and the party of sitting President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo.

Analysis of public sentiment towards Mr Ganjar’s potential candidacy in 2024 has shown he too is viewed positively.

Mr Ganjar is seen as the safest, if not strongest, candidate. The PDI-P holds 22.26 per cent of parliamentary seats and is the only party that does not need to form a coalition to nominate president and vice president candidates.

Mr Ganjar is seen as sharing Mr Jokowi’s characteristics: A civilian with a down-to-earth communication style. And he comes from Central Java, just like Mr Jokowi, which may be important to many voters.

It will be the third time in the race for Mr Prabowo Subianto should he contest the presidency, having previously lost to Mr Jokowi twice.

Mr Prabowo also lost in the 2009 vice-presidential race as the running mate of PDI-P chairwoman Megawati Soekarnoputri.

Mr Prabowo, a former army general, is the leader of the Gerindra Party, the second-largest in the parliament. Mr Jokowi appointed him as the Minister of Defence in 2019.

Mr Prabowo has long been linked to the kidnapping and disappearance of students and activists who opposed former president Suharto’s authoritarian regime in the late 1990s. At that time, Mr Prabowo was the commander of the Indonesian Army Special Forces.

In a number of national surveys, Mr Prabowo comes out on top, slightly ahead of Mr Anies and Mr Ganjar.

Ballot boxes being checked before being sent to polling stations in Jakarta, April 16, 2019.


One interesting aspect of the Indonesia 2024 elections is that the young generation (aged 22-30 years) will dominate with 114 million voters, or 56.4 per cent of the total voters nationwide.

Half of them will be first-time voters. A key question will be whether they are willing to participate or not.

A study conducted by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in August 2022 revealed that young voter participation in the 2019 election was 91.3 per cent, up from 85.9 per cent in the 2014 election.

But when asked about their views, the percentage of young people who declared an interest in politics was a mere 1.1 per cent. Many young voters were undecided, pessimistic about the political situation and lacking in trust in the political elite.

Another earlier study (by Singapore’s S Rajaratnam School of International Studies) suggested that Indonesia’s younger generation tends to be apathetic about political developments and not as nationalistic as other generations in the country.

Young voters also could not be easily driven by their families’ favouritism towards certain candidates. This pattern is different from previous elections.

Since the number of young voters is huge, political parties and potential candidates have started to implement social media strategies to attract them.


This will be the second time Indonesia has held presidential and legislative elections at the same time. The legislative elections will consist of votes for the national-level council and the House of Representatives as well as regional legislative bodies.

Some scholars are questioning this approach as it is considered complicated — even more complex than it was in the 2019 elections — and may confuse many voters. It is also burdensome for election organisers.

For the first time, polling day will be in the country’s rainy season. This could bring tough logistical challenges because in Indonesia, heavy rains can easily trigger floods and landslides.


Since the 2009 general election, Indonesia has implemented an open proportional election system — voters directly vote for candidates for legislative members listed on their ballot papers.

This system differs from the closed proportional system previously implemented from 1971 to 1997 – where voters voted for the political parties, and then the parties internally selected candidates for the legislative seats.

With the open proportional system, the election gives voters more power over political parties to choose who will get the seats. Efforts by some to restore the closed system were stopped by the Constitutional Court.


Indonesia faces complicated challenges related to the spread of fake news or disinformation, with many studies indicating that intentionally misleading campaigns are thriving on social media.

Indonesia has the second-largest audience globally on TikTok. The country’s Ministry of Communication and Information has found 425 hoaxes spreading on social media during the first quarter of this year, up from 393 findings in the same period of 2022.

Misinformation and disinformation on social media are rampant ahead of the 2024 election. Given the scale of the poll and the lack of content moderation on platforms, the impact of this activity could well be highly significant.

The world’s biggest one-day election may become dominated by a struggle to contain rampant anti-democratic influences. THE CONVERSATION


Ika Krismantari is the chief editor and content director at The Conversation Indonesia and Nurul Fitri Ramadhani is the politics and society editor at the same non-profit organisation which publishes news analysis and academic research.

The Conversation

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Indonesia elections Indonesia politics

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