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Guide to Indonesia’s 2019 Elections

Perplexed, vexed or just plain indifferent to the upcoming April 17 elections? Here’s all you need to know.

What’s at Stake?

It’s the first simultaneous election in Indonesian history for the president and vice president, regional representatives, and political parties’ candidates for provincial and local assemblies. Voters will receive five ballot papers, each a different colour.

1. President and vice president. Grey ballot paper. The two pairs of candidates are President Joko Widodo and his running mate, Muslim cleric Ma’ruf Amin; and former general Prabowo Subianto and his running mate, businessman Sandiaga Uno.

2. The House of Representatives (DPR). Yellow ballot paper. There are 575 seats in the national parliament. Voters will choose from lists of candidates registered with the 16 competing political parties.

3. The Regional Representatives Council (DPD). Red ballot paper. There are 136 seats up for grabs in the DPD, which functions like a Senate with very limited powers. Each of Indonesia’s 34 provinces will have four representatives in the DPD. Candidates are supposed to be non-partisan (not from political parties).

4. Provincial Legislative Assemblies (DPRD Provinsi). Blue ballot paper. There are a total of 2,207 provincial level legislators to be elected.

5. District/Municipal Legislative Assemblies (DPRD Kab/Kota). Green ballot paper. There are 17,610 local legislators to be elected.

Take a Break

The election falls on a Wednesday, which has been declared a public holiday, and the following Friday is also a public holiday (Good Friday). So we can expect plenty of people to be taking a five-day weekend.

How it Works

Polling stations will open around 7am on April 17 and should be open for at least six hours. Voters put a nail through their preferred candidate on each ballot sheet, which is then folded and put into a ballot box. Election officials at each polling station will then publicly display and tally each vote, scrutinized by monitors from the major parties.

A small percentage of voters deliberately spoil their ballots by piercing multiple candidates.

Official vote counting by the General Elections Commission (KPU) will take place from April 18 to May 22.

From May 23 to June 15, disputes over results can be raised and will be ruled on by the Constitutional Court.

Final results, after legal challenges, should be determined by September 17-23.

Over July to September, members of the DPR, DPD and DPRDs will be inaugurated. They will serve a five-year term.

On October 20, the president and vice president for 2019-2024 will be sworn in.

By the Numbers

Contesting parties: 16 nationally (plus four in Aceh province)

Voters: 192.8 million

Polling stations: 805,075 in Indonesia, 620 abroad

Ballot papers: 939,879,651

Voting age: 17 and upward. Under-17s can vote if married or divorced.

Parties supporting Jokowi: 10

Parties supporting Prabowo: 6

What to Expect

Exit polls, known locally as “quick count”, will give an accurate indication of the outcome by the evening of April 17. If recent opinion polls are accurate, Jokowi will be re-elected by a margin of at least 5%, although his lead has been declining in recent weeks. If Prabowo loses, his team has already vowed to complain of fraud.

Under revised election legislation, parties will need to gain at least 4% of the vote to be represented in the 575-seat DPR. Up to 10 of the 16 competing parties could fail to reach this threshold. Many voters are apathetic, claiming that all parties are tainted by corruption. Nevertheless, there is passionate rivalry between supporters of Jokowi and Prabowo.

Party Profiles

Indonesian political parties tend to be dominated by personalities, rather than polices. The parties can be broadly classified as either secular nationalist, moderate Islamic or conservative Islamic. Policies and platforms tend to be generically similar: nationalist, pro-poor, pro-religion.

The following numbers denote the order in which parties appear on ballot sheets. Polling is each party’s average score from over 10 polls.

Number 1

National Awakening Party (PKB, Partai Kebangkitan Bangsa)

Founded: 23 July 1998

Leader: Muhaimin Iskandar

Ideology: Pancasila

Votes in 2014: 9.04% (sixth place, 47 DPR seats)

2019 presidential candidate: Jokowi

Policies: Pluralism, humanism, anti-radicalism, protection of minorities.

Polling: 6.4%

Details: PKB is the political wing of the nation’s largest Muslim organization, the moderate Nahdlatul Ulama, which opposes efforts to make Indonesia an Islamic state. The party’s founder, Abdurrahman Wahid, better known as Gus Dur, became president in 1999, but was impeached in 2001 after his erratic style and attempted reforms upset the political elite and the military. Now led by Gus Dur’s nephew Muhaimin Iskandar, PKB remains popular in parts of rural Java.

Number 2

Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra, Partai Gerakan Indonesia Raya)

Founded: 6 February 2008

Leader: Prabowo Subianto

Ideology: Pancasila

Votes in 2014: 11.81% (third place, 73 DPR seats)

2019 presidential candidate: Prabowo

Policies: Conservative nationalism, embracing extremists, more military spending.

Polling: 12.9%

Details: The son-in-law of former president Suharto, Prabowo was discharged from the military in August 1998 because troops under his command abducted and tortured pro-democracy activists, some of whom remain “missing”. Prabowo feels it is his destiny to serve as Indonesia’s future leader. In 2004, he tried and failed to become Golkar Party’s presidential candidate. He later formed Gerindra and persuaded three of the previously kidnapped activists to join his party. In 2009, Prabowo ran unsuccessfully as vice president. In 2014, he ran for the presidency but was defeated by Jokowi. For months, he refused to recognize the result, insisting there had been widespread voter fraud. Prabowo has promised that if elected this year, his first act will be to personally bring home extremist Muslim cleric Rizieq Shihab, who is in hiding in Saudi Arabia and wants Indonesia to become an Islamic state that criminalizes homosexuality. Prabowo insists he does not want Indonesia to become an Islamic state. He also says he, rather than foreign investors, should control Indonesian land.

Number 3

Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP, Partai Demokrasi Indonesia Perjuangan)

Founded: 10 January 1999

Leader: Megawati Sukarnoputri (since 1999)

Ideology: Pancasila

Votes in 2014: 18.95% (first place, 109 DPR seats)

2019 presidential candidate: Jokowi

Policies: Infrastructure development, pluralism. Positions itself as the champion of the poor.

Polling: 25.6%

Details: Megawati was drafted into politics in 1986 because of her political pedigree – her father was Indonesia’s charismatic founding president, Sukarno. In 1993, Megawati became chairwoman of Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI), but was ousted in 1996 because she was viewed as a threat to Suharto, who had ousted Sukarno in 1966. After Suharto was toppled in 1998, Megawati formed PDIP, which won the June 1999 general election. Megawati served as vice president until July 2001, when she was elevated to the presidency after parliament threw out reformist cleric Gus Dur. In 2004, Megawati lost the presidency to her chief security minister, ex-general Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. She never forgave him. In 2009, Megawati made another failed presidential run. In 2014, she consented to allowing Jokowi, then the popular governor of Jakarta, to run for the presidency on PDIP’s ticket. Megawati has retained rigid control of the party and groomed her daughter Puan as her successor. PDIP is expected to come first in the 2019 election.

Number 4

Golkar Party (Partai Golongan Karya)

Founded: 20 October 1964

Leader: Airlangga Hartarto

Ideology: Pancasila

Votes in 2014: 14.75% (second place, 91 DPR seats)

2019 presidential candidate: Jokowi

Policies: Nationalist and secular, supports economic liberalization.

Polling: 10.24%

Details: Golkar was founded as an Army-led grouping of professions and unions to oppose the influential Indonesian Communist Party. In 1968, Suharto chose Golkar as his political vehicle, despite his concerns that it was run by gangsters and womanizers. Golkar dominated every election of the Suharto era due to a rigged system. The party survived Suharto’s fall, thanks to its wealth and infrastructure. Golkar has suffered numerous splits and corruption scandals over the years. Ex-generals Wiranto and Prabowo, and media tycoon Surya Paloh all quit Golkar to form their own parties. Golkar’s popularity could be dented after its ex-leader Setya Novanto was in 2018 sentenced to 15 years in jail for corruption. The party’s current leader is Industry Minister Airlangga Hartarto, who enjoys a cleaner reputation.

Number 5

National Democratic Party (Partai NasDem)

Founded: 26 July 2011

Leader: Surya Paloh

Ideology: Pancasila

Votes in 2014: 6.72% (ninth place, 35 DPR seats)

2019 presidential candidate: Jokowi

Policies: Economic democracy, human rights, diversity.

Polling: 3%

The National Democrat movement was founded in 2010 by intellectuals, liberal politicians and businesspersons hoping to improve Indonesia. The organization spawned NasDem Party, which was soon beset by internal disputes. A falling out between media tycoons Surya Paloh (Metro TV boss) and Hary Tanoesoedibjo (MNC media group boss) saw Hary quit the party in 2013. Avowedly opposed to Islamic radicalism, NasDem is hoping its promotion of “Indonesian values” will help it to perform better on election day than in recent polls.

Number 6

Garuda Party (Change Indonesia Movement Party, Partai Gerakan Perubahan Indonesia)

Founded: 16 April 2015

Leader: Ahmad Ridha Sabana

Ideology: Pancasila

Votes in 2014: None. New party

2019 presidential candidate: Prabowo

Policies: Youth-oriented economic development.

Polling: 0.36%

Details: Definitely the most obscure party on the ballot sheet. Back in 2007, former Golkar chief Harmoko, who served as information minister under Suharto, founded the National People’s Party (PKN), which failed to qualify for the 2009 general election. In April 2015, PKN changed its name to Change Indonesia Movement Party (abbreviated to Garuda). This rebranding meant the new party didn’t have to undergo formal verification by the Justice Ministry. The party’s constitution, bylaws, symbol and senior figures were all overhauled. It is now virtually unrecognizable from PKN. Garuda’s new senior officials have been linked to Suharto’s eldest daughter, Tutut – but she later joined her youngest brother Tommy’s new party, Berkarya. Garuda Party tried to build up its membership by online registrations, but its failure to submit campaign funding reports has seen it disqualified from several local elections in recent months.

Number 7

Working Party (Partai Berkarya)

Founded: 16 July 2016

Leader: Tommy Suharto

Ideology: Pancasila

Votes in 2014: None. New party

2019 presidential candidate: Prabowo

Policies: Schools to be replaced by online lessons; less spending on infrastructure.

Polling: 0.36%

Details: Hutomo Mandala Putra, better known as Tommy, is the most notorious of former president Suharto’s six children. In 2000, Tommy was sentenced to 18 months in jail for corruption. He went into hiding and paid two hitmen to murder the judge who had convicted him. In 2002, he was sentenced to 15 years in jail for murder, illegal possession of weapons and fleeing justice. He was released in 2006. After unsuccessful bids to lead Golkar Party, Tommy formed Berkarya Party in 2016. Berkarya aims to restore the “glory” of the Suharto era. Tommy’s vast wealth could help the party, which has been faring badly in opinion polls. Purely by coincidence, Berkarya has adopted Golkar’s yellow colour and distinctive banyan tree logo. Despite living in Jakarta, Tommy is running for office in Papua, parts of which follow a system involving clan chiefs casting votes on behalf of constituents.

Number 8

Prosperous Justice Party (PKS, Partai Keadilan Sejahtera)

Founded: 20 April 2002

Leader: Sohibul Iman

Ideology: Islam

Votes in 2014: 6.79% (seventh place, 40 DPR seats)

2019 presidential candidate: Prabowo

Policies: Sharia law; opposes neo-liberalism.

Polling: 3.35%

Details: PKS is one of the original post-Suharto, conservative Muslim parties. It started out as the Justice Party (PK) in July 1998 but performed poorly in the 1999 general election. Later rebranded as PKS, it presented itself as a morally clean and intellectual party. This image was destroyed in 2013 by a series of sex and corruption scandals. PKS stopped demanding capital punishment for corruption when its own members were accused of graft. A senior PKS member has said natural disasters are caused by immoral television shows. Despite some poor polling, PKS is expected to retain its place in parliament.

Number 9

Indonesian Unity Party (Perindo, Partai Persatuan Indonesia)

Founded: 17 February 2015

Leader: Hary Tanoesoedibjo

Ideology: Pancasila

Votes in 2014: None. New party

2019 presidential candidate: Jokowi

Policies: Prosperity and justice for all Indonesians.

Polling: 2.68%

If at first you don’t succeed, try again and again. And then form your own party. Media baron Hary Tanoe made part of his fortune handling some of the Suharto children’s assets in the wake of the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis. Politically ambitious, he joined fellow media tycoon Surya Paloh’s NasDem Party in 2011 but quit two years later. In 2013, he joined ex-general Wiranto’s Hanura Party. He left the party because Hanura supported Jokowi for the presidency in 2014. Hary formed Perindo in 2015 and initially supported Prabowo for the presidency. But after facing investigation for allegedly threatening a tax investigator, Hary decided Perindo should instead support Jokowi. Hary is developing two Trump resorts in Indonesia, but the projects have been plagued by delays. Although Perindo is polling poorly, Hary could be rewarded if his media empire proves beneficial to Jokowi.

Number 10

United Development Party (PPP, Partai Persatuan Pembangunan)

Founded: 5 January 1973

Leader: Suharso Monoarfa

Ideology: Islam

Votes in 2014: 6.53% (eighth place)

2019 presidential candidate: Jokowi

Policies: Conservative Islam. Opposes distribution of free condoms to combat HIV/AIDS.

Polling: 3.21%

Details: PPP was born as the result of a forced merger of Islamic parties under the Suharto regime. After Suharto’s fall in 1998, the party switched its ideology from Pancasila to Islam. In recent years, PPP has become increasingly conservative. It has also been plagued by corruption scandals. Surydharma Ali, who was PPP chairman from 2007-2014 and also served as religious affairs minister, was in 2016 jailed for six years for embezzling funds from Muslim pilgrims. More recently, PPP chairman Muhammad ‘Romy’ Romahurmuziy was arrested in March 2019 on suspicion of taking bribes in return for positions at the Religious Affairs Ministry. PPP quickly installed a new chairman, but faces waning popularity.

Number 11

Indonesian Solidarity Party (PSI, Partai Solidaritas Indonesia)

Founded: 16 November 2014

Leader: Grace Natalie

Ideology: Pancasila

Votes in 2014: None. New party

2019 presidential candidate: Jokowi

Policies: Anti-corruption, pro-human rights and environment, stronger education.

Polling: 0.46%

Details: There’s a lot of positive buzz about this young, progressive, reformist party, which positions itself as an alternative to the mainstream political elite. However, PSI is languishing near the bottom of opinion polls. PSI has been widely attacked in smear campaigns. Opponents have vandalized its Wikipedia page and disseminated social media messages falsely claiming that any votes for PSI could cause Jokowi to lose to Prabowo. PSI has been spending big on advertising, raising questions over whether it would subsequently become beholden to corporate donors.

Number 12

National Mandate Party (PAN, Partai Amanat Nasional)

Founded: 23 August 1998

Leader: Zulkifli Hasan

Ideology: Inclusive of Pancasila and Islam

Votes in 2014: 7.59% (fifth, 49 DPR seats)

2019 presidential candidate: Prabowo

Policies: Islam-oriented democracy

Polling: 2.55%

Details: PAN was founded by Muslim leader Amien Rais, who positioned himself as the figurehead of the pro-democracy movement that ousted Suharto in May 1998. Back then, Amien was viewed as a moderate and a modernist, but in recent years he has become increasingly conservative. PAN has its roots in Muhammadiyah, Indonesia’s second-largest Muslim organization. The party initially appealed to Muslim intellectuals, but its popularity declined amid internal rifts. In 2014, then-PAN leader Hatta Rajasa was Prabowo’s running mate in the presidential election. In 2015, People’s Consultative Assembly speaker and former forestry minister Zulkifli Hasan was elected PAN chairman. He switched the party’s allegiance from Prabowo’s opposition coalition to Jokowi. In 2018, PAN moved back to Prabowo’s camp amid allegations of money politics that were strongly denied.

Number 13

People’s Conscience Party (Hanura, Hati Nurani Rakyat)

Founded: 14 November 2006

Ideology: Pancasila

Leader: Oesman Sapta Odang

Votes in 2014: 5.26% (10th place, 16 seats)

2019 presidential candidate: Jokowi

Policies: Development of remote regions

Now polling at: 0.85%

Details: Former military commander Wiranto was once considered a contender for the presidency for handling Indonesia’s transition to democracy over 1998-99. He was sacked as chief security minister in 2000 for human rights abuses during East Timor’s 1999 independence referendum. He was Golkar’s presidential candidate in 2004 but was defeated by fellow ex-general Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. He formed Hanura in 2006, and stood as Jusuf Kalla’s running mate in 2009 but they won just 12% of the vote. Wiranto planned to run for the presidency in 2014 but ended up backing Jokowi and was later rewarded with the cabinet post of chief security minister. Polling around 1% after some of its candidates were linked to corruption, Hanura could fail to retain its seats in parliament.

Number 14

Democratic Party (Partai Demokrat)

Founded: 9 September 2001

Leader: Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono

Ideology: Pancasila

Votes in 2014: 10.19% (fourth place, 61 seats)

2019 presidential candidate: Prabowo (half-heartedly)

Policies: Nationalism, pluralism.

Polling: 6.02%

Details: The Democratic Party was created in 2001 to propel Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) to the presidency in 2004. There were high hopes for the party, but it became mired in massive corruption scandals. Rather than attracting the nation’s best politicians, the Democratic Party looks set on becoming a dynastic vehicle for SBY’s sons. SBY had wanted his oldest son, Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, to be the running mate for either Prabowo or Jokowi in 2019 – in return for the Democratic Party’s support. But Jokowi ended up opting for Islamic credentials, while Prabowo opted for wealth. The party is now half-heartedly supporting Prabowo but could be ready to make a coalition deal with Jokowi if he is re-elected (and if ex-president Megawati can put aside her antipathy toward SBY). The family is presently preoccupied with the health of SBY’s wife, who is awaiting life-saving surgery in Singapore.

Hey, what about parties 15 to 18?

Sigh. This isn’t the first time such numerical unsightliness has occurred. The General Elections Commission (KPU) verified which parties were eligible to contest the election. Those that met the criteria each received a number (1 to 14). The next numbers (15 to 18) went to four parties from semi-autonomous Aceh province. But just as happened ahead of the 2014 elections, two small parties failed to meet final eligibility criteria, so they filed objections, which were accepted. These minnows were then slotted onto the list, taking numbers 19 and 20. Both have abysmal showings in polls.

Number 19

Crescent Star Party (PBB, Partai Bulan Bintang)

Founded: 17 July 1998

Leader: Yusril Ihza Mahendra

Ideology: Islam

Votes in 2014: 1.46% (11th place, no DPR seats)

2019 presidential candidate: Jokowi

Policies: Islamic law.

Polling: 0.36%

Details: PBB is a descendant of Masyumi, which was Indonesia’s biggest Islamic party until banned by founding president Sukarno in 1960 for supporting a rebellion. During the Suharto regime, Masyumi was briefly resurrected under the name Parmusi, but was then forced to become part of the only permitted Muslim party, PPP. After Suharto’s fall, Masyumi was resurrected as PBB to avoid the stigma of its original name. PBB’s founder and current leader is Suharto’s former speech writer, Yusril Ihza Mahendra, a lawyer who served as justice minister during Megawati’s presidency. The conservative party has suffered from in-fighting and corruption allegations.

Number 20

Indonesian Justice and Unity Party (PKPI, Partai Keadilan dan Persatuan Indonesia)

Founded: 15 January 1999 (as PKP, in 2002 became PKPI)

Leader: Diaz Hendropriyono

Ideology: Pancasila

Votes in 2014: 0.91% (12th place, no DPR seats)

2019 presidential candidate: Jokowi

Policies: Pluralism and national unity.

Polling: 0.13%

Details: PKP was founded by retired general Edi Sudrajat after he failed to take the leadership of Golkar following the fall of Suharto. PKP was supported by former generals and ministers who felt Golkar was out of touch with the public. After Sudrajat’s death in 2006, PKPI was led by Meutia Hatta, the eldest daughter of founding vice president Muhammad Hatta. Subsequent senior leaders included former vice president Try Sutrisno, former Jakarta governor Sutiyoso and former intelligence chief A.M. Hendropriyono. In 2018, the leadership was taken over by Hendropriyono’s son, Diaz, perhaps to counter the perception that PKPI is a grouping of old generals. The party’s prospects are dim.

See: Facebook’s New Feature will Support Indonesia’s Upcoming Election

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