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Politics

Indonesia kicks off process of electing new president

Central Java governor tops latest surveys in vote slated for February 2024

An electoral worker holds up ballots in Jakarta in 2019. Indonesia holds a presidential election every five years.   © AP

JAKARTA -- Indonesia on Tuesday officially kicked off the electoral process ahead of national votes in 2024, when the world's third-largest democracy will elect its new president, regional leaders and legislators.

In 2024, for the first time in its history, the country of over 270 million people will directly elect its top leader on the same day as elections take place for members of parliament and regional legislatures. These are scheduled for Feb. 14, 2024, followed by elections for governors, mayors and regents across Indonesia's 34 provinces later the same year, on Nov. 27.

"Today marks just 20 months before the votes. The simultaneous elections ... are designed so that all of us will be able to control ourselves," Hasyim Asy'ari, head of the General Elections Commission, or KPU, said at a ceremony marking the official start of the electoral process on Tuesday evening.

While political parties will compete against each other to win votes for parliament and regional legislatures, they might support the same presidential candidate.

"Therefore, they will exercise self-restraint," he said, hoping to avoid political turmoil in the upcoming elections.

According to the schedule published by the KPU, pairs of presidential and vice presidential candidates will officially stand for the contest between between October and November 2023, with the entire campaign slated to run from Nov. 28, 2023, to Feb. 10, 2024. Each presidential ticket must receive the endorsement of political parties that together hold more than 20% of the seats in parliament.

The KPU is soon expected to decide the budget for the elections, together with the government and lawmakers. It earlier proposed a total of 76.6 trillion rupiah ($5.2 billion) to finance the entire process through 2024, but has been told to cut costs.

The commission is also expected to issue technical guidelines for the elections logistics in the coming months, as well as decide the number of eligible voters and the total number of legislative seats that will be contested.

With KPU members sworn in in April, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo ended months of debate and mounting calls from cabinet members and politicians for him to run for a third term, or delay the elections, citing extraordinary circumstances arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Students take part in a protest against proposals floated by some ministers to extend President Joko Widodo's term and postpone the 2024 election in Jakarta on Apr. 11.   © Reuters

Indonesia's constitution bars Widodo, who came to power in 2014, from running for a third five-year term. But the president remains popular, with his approval ratings returning to around 70%, according to the latest polls, following a dip during the height of Indonesia's cooking oil crisis earlier this year.

This, analysts said, has contributed to the rising popularity of Central Java Gov. Ganjar Pranowo, a fellow member of the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P). Pranowo tops May-June surveys released over the past week by two local independent pollsters, Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting and Charta Politika Indonesia.

Pranowo garnered over 30% of the vote under several scenarios, topping Prabowo Subianto, the defense minister and former opposition leader who faced off against Widodo in the 2014 and 2019 presidential elections. Jakarta Gov. Anies Baswedan, the opposition's current favorite, is running third.

"The more satisfied people are with Jokowi's performance, the more it will potentially benefit Ganjar Pranowo," Yunarto Wijaya, executive director of Charta, said Monday, adding that Pranowo is expected to continue Widodo's policies.

"On the other hand, the less satisfied people are with Jokowi's government, the more likely Anies [Baswedan] will benefit, followed perhaps by Prabowo [Subianto]."

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