President Joko Widodo at a Press Conference in State Place. Photo: Privacy

JAKARTA (TheInsiderStories) – About 40 days into the April 17 presidential election, the findings of a number of credible survey institutions show the superiority of the Joko Widodo-Ma’ruf Amin pair over Prabowo Subianto-Sandiaga Salahuddin Uno. In the survey, the incumbent is predicted to gain more than 50 percent of the vote compared to the 30 percent that the opponent can achieve.

In the past month, several survey institutions issued the results of their research. The institution is the Lembaga Survei Indonesia (LSI) Denny JA and Indonesian Polmark which was released on March 5, 2019.

LSI Denny JA is the result of research for the past six months, namely August 2018 to February 2019. Electability dynamics Widodo-Amin was 52.2 percent, 53.2 percent, 57.7 percent, 53.2 percent, 54.2 percent and 54 , 8, and finally 58.7 percent. Whereas Subianto-Uno dynamics at 29.5 percent, 29.2 percent, 28.6 percent, 31.2 percent, 30.6 percent, and 31.0 percent, and finally at 30.9 percent.

Although with a different percentage, Polmark Indonesia also favored Widodo 40.4 percent of 25.8 percent Subianto. But the swing voters percentage is 33.8 percent. While Cyrus Network, which was released on February 28, won Widodo with 57.5 percent of 37.2 percent belonging to Subianto. The difference between the two is 20 percent.

Then Populi Center released the survey results on February 7. Widodo was 54.1 percent compared to 31 percent owned by Subianto. Finally from Celebes Research Center with a ratio of 56.1 percent Widodo versus 31.7 percent Subianto. Swing voters at 12.2 percent.

Based on the results of the survey, the incumbent’s strength is indeed so dominant, supported by campaign strategy and measurable political calculations.

Firstly, it touted the economic accomplishments made during Widodo’s first term 2014-2019. This includes new tax holiday schemes and streamlining of business permits to encourage new foreign direct investments; speeding up the construction of new infrastructure projects, especially new toll roads, airports, and seaports; and increasing the number of Indonesians eligible to receive free or highly-subsidised healthcare through the national health insurance schemes.

Secondly, Jokowi choosed Amin, a senior Islamic cleric from Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), Indonesia’s largest Islamic organisation, who is also general chairman of Majelis Ulama Indonesia (MUI). This appointment was made to shield himself from charges often made by conservative Muslims regarding his lack of strong Islamic credentials. With Amin’s appointment, his campaign hopes it will solidify support for Widodo among pious Muslims.

Widodo also benefited from his position as an incumbent. He using his powers to secure endorsement from regional officeholders and other senior politicians. So far 31 governors (out of 35 provinces) have declared their support for him. Since in Indonesia prospective voters are more likely to be swayed by influential figures rather than political parties, such endorsements can help Widodo to secure electoral support.

This is especially so in the provinces where Subianto has commanded significant support in the polls, like West Sumatra, West Java, and South Sulawesi. Widodo is also backed by nine out of 16 political parties which are contesting this year’s national legislative election – compared to Subianto who is backed by only five parties.

Lastly, the Widodo campaign has assembled approximately two dozen volunteers groups, which are financed and coordinated by leading retired Indonesian military officers supporting the president, including Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, Moeldoko, Wiranto, and A.M. Hendropriyono.

However, despite the fact Widodo is currently leading in the polls, his electability is widely considered by many observers to remain vulnerable from potential new attacks from the Subianto campaign. This includes those who criticise his economic policies and those who continue to questioning his Islamic credentials.

On the economic front, the Subianto campaign has criticised Widodo for the relatively high prices of food items such as rice, meat, vegetables, and other staples. They also criticised Widodo’s policy to import most of these staples from overseas, while these imports have failed to bring down the prices of these goods.

In the outer island provinces like West Kalimantan and North Sulawesi, the campaign attacks the administration for failing to halt the falling prices of plantation commodities like palm oil and rubber, which are important economic resources for farmers who live in these provinces. These attacks have managed to bring down Widodo’s electability ratings in West Kalimantan, from 60 percent of the votes during the 2014 presidential election to approximately just 54 percent today.

Amin so far he has not been able to attract more supporters from the conservative Islamic background. Much of the clerics and organisations affiliated with Gerakan Nasional Pembela Fatwa Ulama (GNPF Ulama) are steadfast in their support for Subianto.

Amin has also not been able to attract supporters from Muhammadiyah – Indonesia’s second largest Islamic organisation, given the wide perception within the organisation that the Widodo administration favours NU rather than the former. This is indicated by the large number of political appointees from NU background and government grants and subsidies given to NU-linked religious institutions. Consequently, most Muhammadiyah members are supporting Subianto.

There is also a growing perception that despite his position as MUI general chairman, Amin is not well-known among grassroots-level Muslims, including those who aligned themselves with NU. This can be seen even in Amin’s native province Banten, where he is not well-known in rural villages where most of the province’s residents live.

Using the advantage of his incumbency, Widodo is able to marshal more political support from political parties, regional executives, retired militer officers, and influential notables compared to his opponent Subianto. This support, if effectively utilised, can potentially help him to secure his re-election relatively easily.

However, evidence on the ground indicates that this election will be much closer than what most pollsters and pundits have anticipated. Widodo remains vulnerable to attacks from Subianto’s camp on his economic records and on his Islamic credentials. In addition, Subianto seems to have more committed supporters on his side rather than Widodo.

Written by Lexy Nantu, Email: lexy@theinsiderstories.com