Guide to the 2019 Indonesian elections: A little psephology

On Wed 17 April 2019, 190 million Indonesian voters will set off to the polls to elect their President and Vice-President. On this day they will also elect 136 members of the national Regions House, a kind of weak Senate, together with 575 members of the powerful House of Representatives. In addition they will elect 2,207 provincial level MPs from the 34 Provinces and also elect 17,610 local councillors across more than 500 local authorities.

This is Part 3 of the Guide to the 2019 Elections Series | Part 1 | Part 2

A Little Psephology

The chart below outlines the party support for each of the candidates heading towards the elections next year. The division of the parties from left to right are based upon a general division on where they sit on the key issue of the role of the majority faith in the public domain.

The Left tends to the view that there should be a clear delineation of that role. The Centre Left also comprise essentially nationalist parties but they also respect the presence of religious thinking but seek not to overtly favor one over the others. The Centre Right comprise parties close to mass Muslim organisations but are open to people of all faith and reject the idea of Indonesia as an Islamic State. The Right are parties that are founded upon Islam.

In practice, of course, coalition formation and practical politics means that parties frequently stray beyond their place along the spectrum below.

Among all parties represented in the current Parliament all but two (Golkar and Gerindra) have participated in winning coalitions. This year with these two parties on opposite sides of the campaign, one of them will finally enjoy being part of a presidential election win.

Indonesia’s bellwether province is Lampung. In election after election this province, located at the southern end of Sumatra, produces election results that most closely mirror the final national tally. This may be brought about because, while located off-Java, the population of ethnic Javanese is very significant in Lampung, thus creating a population mix that more reflects the national average.

As noted at the beginning of this report in addition to electing the President on 17 April next year voters will also elect MPs to the Parliament. The new election law contains a couple of notable changes. The first is that any party wishing to win any seat in the Parliament has to gain at least 4% of the national vote. Failure to do so regardless of a party actually winning some areas will mean they still gain no seats. The use of a threshold has been in place some 2009 but the size of the threshold has been raised every election since then. At a quite technical level the way seat victories are determined will shift from the old means of using a simple highest remainder to a new system called St Lague. The essential impact of this new system will to provide an additional benefit to large parties in any electorate. The size of the Parliament has been raised from 560 to 575 seats.

I have reviewed the election results of 2014 and recalculated on the basis of the new 575 seat Parliament and using the new way of calculating election wins. The results are as follows:

Over half of the extra seats will go to Golkar with PDIP gaining a further one third of the new seats. Golkar’s super benefit is due to the fact every new seat is located off-Java where Golkar’s vote is historically higher. PDIP’s voting base is more balanced. Of interest is that PKB, whose voting base has historically been highly concentrated on Java has gained 2 additional seats suggesting its efforts to widen its appeal may bear electoral benefits.

The following map outlines which party gained the largest number of votes in each city and county. It is worth noting that on average the winning party in any city or county only secured 28% of the vote in that region.

Regions To Watch

The key provinces to watch next year include the most populous province, West Java. In securing 60% of its votes in 2014, this province provided Mr Prabowo with his strongest result delivering more than 1/5 of his total national tally. To retain any chance of victory in 2019, his campaign team will need to retain a solid showing here whilst building elsewhere. Recent polling (albeit prior to the close of candidate nominations) suggest he has actually lost support in this province. In this election he will be helped by his youthful presidential running mate given the demographic profile of West Java particularly including its high rate of urbanization; recall the aspirational urban Muslim middle class.

In the other two huge provinces of Central Java and East Java, Mr Jokowi was victorious especially in his home province of Central Java (66%). He should again win handily in this province. East Java gave him a national average win. At this stage, given the recent win in the province by one of his former ministers and supporters, Team Jokowi should be looking with confidence at prospects.

The other two large provinces in Java, in terms of population, Jakarta and Banten will be harder to read. With Golkar and PPP now part of the Jokowi team and Mr Mar’uf hailing from this region, there may be prospects of improving Jokowi’s vote from the low 40s in Banten. Jakarta, which only gave Mr Jokowi a national average victory, could be a potential flip in favour of Mr Prabowo.

In the two largest provinces off-Java, prospects for Mr Prabowo should be looking better in 2019 than in 2014. A close supporter of Mr Prabowo has just been elected Governor of North Sumatra offering prospects of potentially flipping this province towards the Prabowo camp. In South Sulawesi, the absence of incumbent Vice-president Jusuf Kalla, who is the best known South Sulawesian, may reduce the attraction of the Jokowi ticket. While it will be difficult for him to flip this province, Team Prabowo should be looking to do considerably better than the 29% they secured in 2014.

The map below outlines, on the basis of each city and county of the county, which presidential candidate won the popular vote in 2014.

Elevating these results to the provincial level may provide a clearer picture of where each candidate will either need to work to defend or to make progress in order to secure victory next year.

With an expected improvement in his base vote in the largest province of West Java, plus a track record of national leadership, and despite choosing the less attractive Vice-presidential running mate, the incumbent President Jokowi remains the front runner at this stage.

View or download Kevin Evans’ complete Guide to the 2019 Indonesian Elections (1.64MB pdf)