The Jakarta Post
Presidential candidates incumbent Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and contender Prabowo Subianto are stepping up their efforts to claim support in their opponent’s heartlands, believing that winning on their rival’s home turf would guarantee victory.
The 2019 presidential election is to be a rematch between the two, making it relatively easier to make calculations based on the results of the 2014 election.
The national campaign team of Jokowi and running mate Ma’ruf Amin has expressed its determination to claim support in West Java, Banten and West Sumatra, where Jokowi and Jusuf Kalla lost by landslides to Prabowo and then running mate Hatta Rajasa.
Meanwhile, the campaign team of Prabowo and Sandiaga Uno has made it public that it has set its sights on Central Java, known as a long-time stronghold of Jokowi’s Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P). Prabowo’s team has just revealed its key strategy of moving its campaign headquarters to Surakarta, Central Java, the city where Jokowi grew up and rose to prominence as a politician. Jokowi began his political career as the city’s mayor.
The campaign team of Prabowo-Sandiaga said that it had gained confidence particularly after the Central Java gubernatorial election in June, in which Sudirman Said, who was endorsed by the Prabowo camp, managed to win 41 percent of the vote against 58.7 percent won by Jokowi’s fellow PDI-P member and incumbent Ganjar Pranowo, in a much closer race than preliminary polls suggested.
PDI-P Central Java chapter chairman Bambang Wuryanto welcomed the opponent’s plan to move its main campaign base to the province, saying the plan had only further boosted their fighting spirit.
“We established a team called Pandu Juang five years ago, which managed to help Ganjar win. They are stronger than ever to fight now. We are on fire,” he said.
Over 27.5 million eligible voters are slated to cast ballots across Central Java, the third-largest constituency after West Java and East Java.
“Both Jokowi and Prabowo must first make sure they are safe in their respective strongholds before moving on to the [less safe] yellow and red zones,” political observer Ari Nurcahyo of think-tank Para Syndicate told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.
In the 2014 election, Jokowi only won four out of 26 cities and regencies in West Java, securing 40 percent of the vote. Meanwhile, Prabowo won nearly 60 percent of the vote in 22 cities and regencies. Jokowi won 66.7 percent in East Java compared to 33 percent won by Prabowo.
Ari said that in 2019, the two tickets would have an equal chance to win votes in the rival’s stronghold as long as they knew the key issues to address.
Political analyst from pollster KedaiKopi Hendri Satrio emphasized that each ticket should know “what to sell” in the rival’s home turf.
“Prabowo-Sandiaga can start with economic issues, such as high prices, unemployement and so on, while Jokowi can promote his achievements during his first term,” Hendri said.
To date, there were 23 leaders of cities and regencies in West Java who had declared support for Jokowi, according to Dedi Mulyadi, the head of the Jokowi-Ma’ruf campaign team in the province.
“We set a 60 percent target in West Java. The political map is changing now. Jokowi is getting even more support now, including from Bandung and Tasikmalaya,” he said.
Jokowi-Maruf campaign team secretary Abdy Yuhana claimed that Prabowo won West Java in 2014 as the province was led by Ahmad Heryawan, a member of the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), Prabowo’s Gerindra Party’s closest ally.
The province is currently led by Ridwan Kamil, the former Bandung mayor who was endorsed by Jokowi’s coalition. West Java is home to 32.6 million out of 185 million eligible voters.
Meanwhile, Prabowo’s campaign team spokesman Suhud Aliyudin said that Sandiaga would focus his campaign on attracting millenial voters in East Java. To date, Sandiaga has visited 818 cities and regencies in East Java, including Surakarta.
This article was originally published in The Jakarta Post's print edition on Dec. 14, 2018, with the title "Jokowi, Prabowo gamble on winning rival’s home turf".