Indonesia’s Prabowo maintains lead in polls, runoff looms as election nears

The recent surge in popularity for Anies Baswedan, an academic and former education minister, is noteworthy and has been attributed to his strong performances in recent election debates.

Indonesia, the world’s third-largest democracy, is gearing up for its presidential election on February 14, with Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto currently holding a significant lead in the polls. However, the latest opinion poll conducted by Indikator Politik indicates that Prabowo’s popularity is stagnating, raising the possibility of a second-round runoff in June.

Despite a commanding 20-point lead, Prabowo is still short of the crucial threshold of over 50% of the vote required to secure victory in a single round. The survey conducted from December 30 to January 6 revealed that Prabowo had the support of 45.8% of the 1,200 respondents. Former Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan secured second place for the first time in Indikator’s surveys, with 25.5% backing. Ganjar Pranowo from the ruling party followed closely behind with 23% support, and 5.8% of respondents remained undecided.

Indikator’s executive director, Burhanuddin Muhtadi, suggested that Prabowo’s popularity might continue to stagnate unless he takes substantial action. Uncertainty prevails over whether the election will conclude in one round or proceed to a runoff.

Prabowo, a 72-year-old former special forces commander, is contesting his third successive presidential election, having previously lost to the immensely popular incumbent Joko Widodo, known as Jokowi, in 2014 and 2019. In a strategic move to broaden his support base, Prabowo selected Jokowi’s 36-year-old son, Gibran Rakabuming Raka, as his running mate in October. This decision led to a rapid rise in Prabowo’s popularity, attributed by many analysts to the perceived tacit support from the current president.

According to Marcus Mietzner from the Australian National University, Prabowo holds a substantial chance of winning, whether in one round or two, given the significant 20% lead over his competitors. Mietzner emphasized that in many other countries, such a margin would likely signal the end of the election.

The recent surge in popularity for Anies Baswedan, an academic and former education minister, is noteworthy and has been attributed to his strong performances in recent election debates. Additionally, Anies is gaining traction in East Java, a key battleground province according to the Indikator poll.

Analyst Kennedy Muslim from Indikator highlighted the crucial role voter turnout will play in determining whether the election proceeds to a second round. Particularly noteworthy is Prabowo’s popularity among Gen-Z voters, born after 1997, whose turnout in the last election was below the national average. The dynamics of voter participation could significantly impact the outcome of this closely watched election.