Middle class may be ‘key’ to election: Experts
The votes of Jakarta’s middle class, who account for about half the city’s population, may decide who will be the capital’s next governor when voters go to the polls on July 11, observers say.
“The question now is whether middle-class Jakartans are willing to come to polling stations on election day,” Bawono Kumoro, a political researcher from The Habibie Center, said on Friday.
“Around 20 percent of the voters are still undecided and have been classified as ‘swing voters’. These people are usually middle-class citizens who have many things to consider before deciding to vote for a specific candidate,” Bawono said.
The World Bank said in a recent report that the middle class — those who spend US$4 to $20 per day — comprised 56.5 percent of the nation’s population of almost 240 million, while Kompas daily said that middle-class citizens comprised 50.3 percent of Jakarta’s 9 million residents.
Bawono described the political atmosphere of the upcoming election as “more dynamic”, saying that six campaigns were contending to run the city, compared to the two campaigns in the city’s first (and last) gubernatorial election in 2007.
The middle-class vote might be split by three campaigns: Faisal Basri-Biem Benjamin, Joko “Jokowi” Widodo-Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama and Alex Noerdin-Nono Sampono, he said.
The three campaigns have been tipped as having strong middle-class support, as evinced by their presence on social media platforms that have been actively followed by a host of educated and tech-savvy supporters.
Meanwhile, the strongest campaign, incumbent Governor Fauzi Bowo and running mate Nachrowi Ramli, is thought to have strong support among working-class and low-income voters.
“There is no doubt that Fauzi has steadfast support, since he has been backed by ‘conservative’-segment voters. The question now is whether the middle-class supporters of Faisal, Jokowi or Alex are willing to swing their votes to another candidate in the second round if their favorite candidates do not make it to the runoff,” Bawono said.
All six tickets have been readying for the formal start of the campaign period on June 24. Yogyakarta-based Gadjah Mada University sociologist Arie Sujito said that the campaign period, which ends on July 7, would be crucial for candidates hoping to attract undecided middle-class votes.
Arie said that underdog candidates might beat expectations and make better-than-expected showings on July 11 if they can attract middle-class voters during the campaign period.
“Despite faring poorly in several surveys, independent candidates may actually have a chance to grab considerable votes from middle-class citizens who currently have a significant distrust of political parties,” he said on Friday.
Elisa Sutanudjaja, an urban planning expert from the Rujak Center For Urban Studies, was optimistic that the middle class would make a strong showing at the polls on July 11, citing evidence that Jakarta’s citizens have shown a “less apathetic” attitude to politics.
“Jakarta’s middle class has successfully gathered the ID cards of approximately 1 million supporters to make independent candidates eligible for the election. This could be seen as achievement for Jakarta’s middle-class as no middle-class [Indonesians] have ever done such a thing in the past,” Elisa said. (sat)
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