#2019ChangePresident movement a game-changer in next year’s Indonesian election?

A person browses a Facebook page of #2019GantiPresiden (#2019ChangePresident), a social media campaign opposing Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s bid for re-election next year. The Conversation Indonesia

#2019ChangePresident movement a game-changer in next year’s Indonesian election?

The rising popularity of a social media campaign opposing Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s bid for re-election next year has received a backlash both from Jokowi supporters and the police. The campaign is known as #2019GantiPresiden or #2019ChangePresident.

The president’s supporters, local police and the Regional National Intelligence Agency (BINDA) have thwarted recent events to promote the campaign in Pekanbaru, Riau, and Surabaya, East Java. This leads to accusations that state security agencies are not being impartial.

Such reactions from Jokowi’s camp confirm their growing fear that the campaign might prevent the president from being re-elected next year.

Launched in March 2018, the movement has been expanding and is poised to change the map of political support at the grassroots level ahead of the 2019 presidential election.

Given the circumstances, understanding the significance of #2019ChangePresident as a game-changer in the next presidential election is crucial.

What is #2019ChangePresident?

Mardani Ali Sera, a politician from opposition party Partai Keadilan Sejahtera (PKS), or Prosperous Justice Party, initiated the #2019ChangePresident movement through a series of tweets in March 2018. His motive was to look for an alternative to Jokowi.

Tweet translation: 5. Therefore, the #2019ChangePresident movement is the antithesis of the “Two Terms” movement for Mr Jokowi. This movement is legitimate, legal and constitutional.

The movement was created to challenge the “Jokowi Dua Periode” (Jokowi for Two Terms) campaign declared by a voluntary group of supporters of his candidacy. This group, known as Jokowi’s National Secretariat, played a crucial role in building popular support for Jokowi’s victory in the 2014 presidential election.

The #2019ChangePresident campaign has gained support from other opposition parties – Gerakan Indonesia Raya (Gerindra), or Great Indonesia Movement Party, and Partai Amanat Nasional (PAN), or National Mandate Party. Gerindra’s chairman, Prabowo Subianto, will again compete with Jokowi for the presidency in 2019.

With Prabowo running for the 2019 presidential election, it is obvious that the #2019ChangePresident movement supports his candidacy.

Besides support from political parties, the movement also gets financial backing from different sources. It has received Rp40 million (US$2,733) from singer-turned-politician Neno Warisman and financial contributions from other sympathisers. Neno, who is also a PKS politician, has become a vocal voice behind the #2019ChangePresident campaign. She has been travelling throughout Indonesia to promote the campaign.

#2019ChangePresident’s strategies and impacts

Activists behind the #2019ChangePresident campaign have launched well-organised and well-structured strategies to criticise Jokowi’s administration.

They have been using religious and economic issues to attack the president. For example, they accused Jokowi of allowing the persecution of ulama (Muslim religious leaders) and discrimination against Muslims, and blamed him for the increasing prices of staple food.

Another strategy involves music. Composer Johny Alang has created the #2019ChangePresident anthem. The song production involves politicians from opposition political parties. The #2019ChangePresident sympathisers sing the anthem loudly when they stage a rally.

Another strategy is using social media platforms. Through social media, the #2019ChangePresident supporters disseminate illustrations attacking the incumbent government’s policies. At the same time, they promote content designed to improve the popularity of Prabowo.

While the effectiveness of the #2019ChangePresident strategies seems incalculable, a big data company Drone Emprit found that the movement has attracted more social media users than Jokowi’s campaign.

The #2019ChangePresident activists at national and local level have been holding rallies in different parts of Indonesia. The first rally was staged in Solo, Central Java. In the following weeks, similar rallies were staged outside Java, including Medan, North Sumatra, Makassar, South Sulawesi and Batam, Riau Islands.

My latest finding shows the successful rally in Batam was due to solid collaborations between #2019ChangePresident activists in Jakarta and a local cleric in Batam.

Due to strong partnerships between numerous politicians from Gerindra, PAN, PKS and local leaders, the same successful stories also occurred in Medan and Makassar, South Sulawesi.

Reactions from Jokowi’s camp

Unlike the #2019ChangePresident movement, Jokowi’s camp seems to be more passive. Jokowi’s National Secretariat announced a “#Jokowi2Periode” (#Jokowi2Terms) campaign in February 2018. But there has been no grassroots movement to promote the campaign.

Apart from active promotion on social media, Jokowi’s campaign lacks coordination and has not been as effective as #2019ChangePresident. Adding to #Jokowi2Terms, Jokowi’s camp has created numerous tags, including #2019TetapJokowi (#2019StillJokowi), #DiaSibukKerja (#HeIsBusyWorking) and #JokowiTetapPresiden2019 (#JokowiRemainsPresident2019). This demonstrates inconsistency in spreading political messages.

Jokowi’s supporters also lack substantial political support from political parties. Golongan Karya (Golkar) is the only political party that has created a volunteer-based supporting group for Jokowi’s re-election bid. They call it Relawan Golkar-Jokowi (GoJo Volunteers).

At first, Jokowi downplayed the #2019ChangePresident movement. He said in a fiery speech that such a smear campaign was not enough to defeat him.

However, as the #2019ChangePresident movement continues to expand, Jokowi’s camp has started to organise counter-rallies to challenge their opponents.

With their own rally, Jokowi supporters have managed to foil their opponents’ campaign in several cities. A rally in Pekanbaru ended up sending the #2019ChangePresident activists, including Neno, on a plane back to Jakarta.

Other rallies resulted in clashes between Jokowi’s supporters and their opponents. The recent clashes in Surabaya and Pekanbaru forced police to intervene. The police have stopped the #2019ChangePresident events in several cities due to security concerns.

Jokowi’s female supporters grouped in Emak-Emak Militan Jokowi (Jokowi’s Militant Mothers) recently filed a lawsuit against the #2019ChangePresident movement. The plaintiff argues that the campaign contains hate speech and therefore violates the Information and Electronic Transaction Law.

The different reactions to the #2019ChangePresident campaign from the Jokowi camp show that the latter lacks comprehensive strategies and seems to be fragmented at the same time.

Lesson learned for Jokowi’s supporters

As the rivalries between supporters heat up, Jokowi’s supporters may need to cool down. Instead of engaging in violent protests to stop the opposite’s campaign, they should consolidate their movement by building affiliations with the coalition of pro-Jokowi political parties and creating a consistent public narrative.

For Jokowi, a more comprehensive strategy to counter-balance the influence of #2019ChangePresident is indeed significant. Without such a strategy, the #2019ChangePresident movement will potentially sway enough grassroots voters to stop him from being re-elected.

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