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Who are Indonesia's presidential hopefuls?

Arti Ekawati | Leo Galuh in Jakarta
October 31, 2023

President Joko Widodo is serving his second and final term. Experts say the country's upcoming presidential election will be its most competitive. DW looks at who's in the running for Indonesia's top job.

Activists protest against the decision of Indonesia's constitutional court adjusting the age eligibility for presidential candidacy
Activists are concerned about what they see as President Widodo's attempts to cling to power and build a political dynasty Image: Adek Berry/AFP

Indonesia's next legislative and presidential elections are scheduled to be held in February 2024. The Southeast Asian archipelago has held free and largely peaceful elections since the fall of dictator Suharto in 1998. 

There are three presidential candidates, all of whom have selected running mates vying for the vice president position. 

The ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) has chosen former governor of Central Java Province, Ganjar Pranowo, as its candidate. He has announced the country's chief security minister Mahfud Md as his running mate.

Pranowo adopted the political style of President Widodo, who is more commonly known as Jokowi, by trying to gain sympathy from grassroots movements.

Who is running?

Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation and does not have diplomatic relations with Israel.

Presidential candidate Ganjar Pranowo and vice presidential candidate Mahfud MD
Pranowo (left) had topped many opinion polls until he backed a call to stop Israel taking part in the under-20 soccer World CupImage: Levie Mulia Wardana/DW

Earlier this year, upon receiving direct orders from PDI-P, Pranowo pushed for efforts to ban the Israeli soccer team from participating in the FIFA under-20 soccer World Cup, for which the Java city of Surakarta had been designated one of the host locations.

The party's firm stance on Israel led to Indonesia being subsequently dropped as host.

The second presidential hopeful is Anies Baswedan, former governor of the Indonesian capital, Jakarta. His running mate is Muhaimin Iskandar, leader of the Islamic National Awakening Party (PKB) — one of the most powerful Islamic parties in the country.

In 2017, Baswedan ran for governor of Jakarta against Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, who is of Chinese heritage. Baswedan won the election — while his competitor was sentenced two years in prison for blaspheming the Quran during one of his campaigns.

The third presidential candidate is Prabowo Subianto, who is making his fourth attempt at securing Indonesia's top job following unsuccessful campaigns in 2009, 2014 and 2019.

Anies Baswedan, governor of Jakarta
Anies Baswedan has been criticized for his handling of recurrent flooding in the sprawling capitalImage: Germain Hazard/DPPI/picture alliance

Prabowo's runing mate is Jokowi's eldest son, Gibran Rakabuming Raka, who serves as mayor in Surakarta.

Analysts say that 72-year-old Subianto has chosen Raka — who, at 36, is half his age — to secure more votes from the younger generation.

But democracy activists have raised concerns over what they see as Jokowi's attempts to cling to power and build a political dynasty after a recent court ruling tweaked eligibility criteria, allowing Raka to join Prabowo's ticket.

Where are the female candidates?

Bivitri Susanti, a constitutional law expert at the Jakarta-based Jentera School of Law, regretted the lack of female candidates in the election, as the situation is unfavorable for women.

"There is no gender perspective. Meeting until the late evening. Hanging out after meetings with many men feels like sort of boys' club. The women feel uncomfortable," Susanti told DW.

The official election campaign period will run from November 28 to February 10, followed by a so-called quiet period during the three days preceding the election. The vote is scheduled to take place on February 14.

Indonesia's General Elections Commission has estimated there will be about 204 million voters out of more than 270 million people across the country, some 55% of whom are aged between 17 and 40.

Prabowo Subianto and Gibran Rakabuming speak at a rally
Jokowi has tacitly backed Subianto by mobilizing his supporters to campaign for the candidate who has paired with his son Image: Levie Mulia Wardana/DW

Younger voters hope the election campaign will not be flooded with hate speech. Dimas Pangestu, 28, still remembers feeling drained due to the hate speech he encountered during the 2019 presidential election.

"Hate speech … brings down other parties without criticizing other contestants' work programs ... It is tiring," Pangestu told DW.

AI deepfake warnings

Another issue that has emerged since the last election is the spread of disinformation and so-called deepfakes, a term for audio and video created or manipulated using artificial intelligence.

All sorts of deepfakes are possible: face swaps, where the face of one person is replaced by another; lip synchronization, where the mouth of a speaking person can be adjusted to an audio track that is different from the original; or voice cloning, where a voice is "copied" in order to use that voice to say something the speaker didn't say.

Antivirus and software manufacturer Kaspersky has issued a warning on the increase of deepfake content ahead of the election.

"Digital threats in the form of SMS, phishing emails, fake videos and malicious sites must be anticipated during the election season in Indonesia next year," said Genie Sugene Gan, head of government affairs at Kaspersky.

"It is also important for people here to be alert to dangerous content they may encounter online during this period," she said.

According to Kaspersky, the price of a deepfake video per minute ranges from 4.7 million rupiah to 316 million rupiah ($300 to $20,000).

C. Andhika S. in Jakarta contributed to this article.

Edited by: Keith Walker