Indonesia’s Prabowo likely to win election in first round, polls say

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Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto is growing more likely to win Indonesia’s presidential election in the first round, the latest polls suggest, despite rising attacks from critics and opponents against his presidential bid ahead of voting on Wednesday.

Survey results released by four prominent Jakarta-based pollsters in the past few days show support for Prabowo has exceeded 50%, which would allow him to win the three-way presidential contest in the initial round of voting. Earlier polls suggested the former army lieutenant general would have to wait for a runoff in June.

In a poll conducted between Jan. 29 and Feb. 5 by Lembaga Survei Indonesia (LSI) involving 1,220 respondents nationwide, Prabowo came away with a 51.9% support rate. Former Jakarta Gov. Anies Baswedan came in at 23.3% and former Central Java Gov. Ganjar Pranowo at 20.3%.

Prabowo’s electability has continued to rise since he named Gibran Rakabuming, the 36-year-old son of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, as his running mate in October, LSI executive director Djayadi Hanan said while explaining the survey results on Saturday.

“With Gibran entering,” Hanan said, “voters are growing more convinced that Jokowi … is firmly supporting the Prabowo-Gibran pair. We can say that the Jokowi effect is working there.”

Hanan says the president’s high approval ratings are helping to bolster Prabowo’s popularity. “The chance of [Prabowo] winning in the first round is quite big,” he said, “though a runoff is still possible.”

A survey from Jan. 27 to Feb. 2 by Poltracking Indonesia, which similarly engaged 1,220 respondents, shows Prabowo winning 50.9% of the vote versus Anies’ 25.1% and Ganjar’s 18.4%. It is the first time in a Poltracking survey for a candidate to move over the 50% threshold.

Hanta Yuda, executive director of Poltracking, said if the 5.6% figure representing undecided or swing voters were proportionally distributed among the three tickets, then Prabowo-Gibran could get a higher vote of up to 54.6%. “Seeing these figures, the potential for the presidential election to end in one round is very big,” Yuda said on Friday.

Indikator Politik Indonesia also released a poll last week that for the first time shows the Prabowo-Gibran ticket over the threshold, at 51.8%. The latest survey by the fourth pollster, LSI Denny JA, has the pair winning 53.5% of the vote. The Prabowo ticket first breached the 50% mark in this survey in late January.

The results show Prabowo leading in Indonesia’s three most populous provinces — West Java, East Java and Central Java. His popularity in East Java jumped after the governor of the province, Khofifah Indar Parawansa, declared her support for Prabowo last month. This is despite Parawansa coming from the same political party as Anies’ running mate, Muhaimin Iskandar.

In Central Java, Prabowo now leads by a thin margin over Ganjar, despite the province being a stronghold of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P). The country’s largest party now backs Ganjar. It supported Jokowi in the 2014 and 2019 elections.

The president is constitutionally barred from seeking a third term.

“Prabowo can relatively defend West Java from potential threats from Anies,” Yuda of Poltracking said. “Additionally, there has been a big exodus from Ganjar to Prabowo in Jokowi’s previous supporter bases — Central Java and East Java.”

The analysts, however, pointed out that given the latest dynamics voters could still change their minds before Wednesday’s vote.

For example, Jokowi has been facing a mounting backlash, including from academic communities and civil society groups, who see him as pulling strings to mobilize support for Prabowo and thus undermining democracy. The criticism led to the president backtracking from what is believed to be his original plan to directly join Prabowo’s campaign. Jokowi still refrains from openly declaring his support.

And while the official campaign period ended on Saturday, attacks by critics and rival supporters against Jokowi and Prabowo have intensified on social media. One focus has been a controversial court ruling allowing Gibran to bypass the legal age limit to become a vice presidential candidate. Another has been Prabowo’s checkered human rights records. Procurements of defense equipment under his ministry have also recently come under fresh scrutiny.

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