Taking the Pulse of Election Year 2018
    Category: Column By : Jusuf Wanandi Read : 110 Date : Tuesday, May 01, 2018 - 15:32:08

    Stipulated in the reformed Elections Laws, elections have come again to make 2018 a political year. This year will see 171 local elections from gubernatorial, subregional, and mayoralty levels with two-thirds of the total 190 million votes contested—a bigger number than the 2017 elections. The political year will extend to 2019 when there will be presidential and legislative elections, national and regional. Thus, the 2018 elections will have a major impact on national elections in April 2019. One lingering worry is that there might be a possible impact of the November 11, 2016 and December 2, 2016 mass demonstrations on the 2018 and 2019 elections as they influenced the 2017 Jakarta gubernatorial election. 

    However, as I have witnessed elections since 1955, elections have never caused any major conflicts. The two big Jakarta mass demonstrations also luckily did not become major rioting or disturbances. In general, the current and near future political situations seem to look better than at the end of 2016. The Jakarta election could be considered a special case, as some voters saw their interests were not well accommodated by the incumbent governor then, while others thought that he was unfriendly towards Islam.

    President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo—taking a cue from this episode—has since tried to get closer and regain the trust of many Islamic groups, and to some extent he has been successful. In addition, the economy has grown in the last few years at 5%, and been more directed to help the underprivileged and small business community. Jokowi regularly tours the country, not only to get his infrastructure projects completed, but also to listen to the plight and dreams of ordinary people, and check on their welfare. He wants to help them achieve those dreams by overcoming their problems; and as his popularity rises, his chances to be re-elected improve. These efforts also have a calming effect on the political situation, which helps his re-election bid.

    As with earlier surveys, Jokowi’s popularity has been in the high 70s but his electability chances can be seen in the forthcoming CSIS surveys done in April 2018 in the five most important provinces—West Java, Central Java, East Java, North Sumatra and South Sulawesi. These five provinces combined have more than 160 million votes or over two-thirds of the national vote. Meanwhile, Jokowi must tackle several problems before campaigning starts in September 2018. One is to select the best vice-presidential candidate to secure his re-election. Most probably he is waiting until the other presidential hopefuls announce their running mates, and only then decide his VP ticket. His VP candidate should be, one, a Muslim leader supported by most Muslim groups; and two, should ideally be from outside Java, because 40% of the votes will come from the outer islands. To win convincingly, Jokowi should not neglect those votes.