K-pop, TikTok, and Cats: The Ultimate Battle for Indonesia’s Youth Vote

"18-Year-Old Nafis Athallah Immersed in Election Fever as Ireland's First-Time Voters Grapple with Divided Opinions"

For 18-year-old Nafis Athallah, the upcoming election in Indonesia is impossible to ignore. Banners line the streets, social media is flooded with campaign content, and his friends are engaged in passionate debates about the candidates. As a first-time voter, Nafis understands the significance of young people in shaping the outcome of the election, with nearly half of the active voters belonging to this demographic.

In recent years, the number of young voters in Indonesia has been steadily increasing. People under the age of 40 now make up 52% of the electorate, and those under 30 account for a third of all voters. This has led to a fierce competition among candidates to win over this crucial demographic.

The election on 14 February will not only determine the next president but also executive and legislative representatives at all administrative levels across the country. The current frontrunner is Prabowo Subianto, a former military general who previously lost to incumbent Joko Widodo in both the 2014 and 2019 elections. However, it remains uncertain whether Prabowo will secure a majority of votes to win outright. If not, a runoff will be held in June between the top candidates. Running against Prabowo are Anies Baswedan, the former governor of Jakarta, and Ganjar Pranowo, the former governor of Central Java.

According to Noory Okthariza, a researcher at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, there isn’t one candidate who has a strong association with the youth vote. Instead, support from young people seems to be distributed across the board. Candidates have been employing various strategies to reach out to young voters, including adapting their language, behavior, and even their use of social media platforms like TikTok.

Parties and candidates have gone to great lengths to appeal to young voters. They have given away tickets to K-pop concerts and carefully curated their social media feeds with cats and viral dancing. However, young voters have concerns beyond entertainment. Nafis, for example, cares deeply about protecting civil rights and is critical of sweeping laws in Indonesia that can stifle freedom of speech.

Some of Nafis’ friends support Prabowo, believing that his strong personality would make Indonesia more secure and better. However, Prabowo is a controversial figure, with allegations of past human rights abuses. He has been accused of involvement in the abduction and enforced disappearance of student activists in 1997 and 1998, as well as targeted killings in Papua and East Timor. Prabowo has denied these allegations, calling them unproven.

Despite his controversial past, Prabowo has undergone a rebranding campaign to appeal to voters. He presents himself as a grandfatherly figure, speaking softly and even dancing jovially on stage. Prabowo is running on a joint ticket with Gibran Rakabuming Raka, the eldest son of current President Joko Widodo, which allows him to leverage the political clout of the outgoing leader.

Tete, a 19-year-old first-time voter, follows Prabowo on Instagram and admires his work ethic and accountability. Tete believes that Prabowo’s firm leadership would benefit Indonesia, especially in continuing infrastructure projects that have improved transportation in the country. Tete has personally experienced the benefits of these projects, such as a new bus terminal and a faster journey between Yogyakarta and Jakarta.

Charliensia Hankssasar Pandanga, a 22-year-old student, also emphasizes the importance of infrastructure investment, particularly in less developed areas outside big cities. She hopes that improved infrastructure will lead to lower transportation costs and better access to education. Charliensia, who aspires to become an English literature lecturer, wants to improve the quality of education in her home area, which currently lags behind other provinces.

Research by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies indicates that younger voters are concerned about job availability, unemployment, climate change, and the environment. Rafaela Xaviera, a 24-year-old environmental activist, believes that the next government should prioritize sustainable development and address the pressing issues of climate change.

As the election draws near, candidates will continue their efforts to win over young voters. The outcome of the election will not only shape the future of Indonesia but also reflect the priorities and aspirations of its young population.

John O Mahony

John O Mahony

Leave a Replay

Scroll to Top