The surprising results of yesterday’s legislative election have many questioning the ‘Jokowi effect’ – the idea that the popularity of Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo would significantly improve PDI-P’s fortunes in the parliamentary election. Some, even within the PDI-P itself, have criticized the party’s failure to capitalize on the so-called effect. It appears that the idea that a popular presidential candidate can significantly boost a party’s electability was misplaced.

CSIS’s March polling gave PDI-P 33.4% of respondent’s support when Jokowi, along with the other two leading candidates – Prabowo Subianto and Aburizal Bakrie – were mentioned as their respective parties presidential candidates. This suggested a staggering 13.3 point increase over the 20.1% support PDI-P received when no candidates were mentioned. Yesterday’s CSIS-CN Quick Count result has PDI-P coming in at slightly below that base rate with 19.1%, most likely forcing it to play coalition politics.

david graph

CSIS-CN Quick Count result

What accounts for this? Well perhaps the failure of the Jokowi effect doesn’t seem that odd when looking at how two other presidential candidates affected their party’s vote. The same CSIS poll from March indicated that 10.3% of respondents would vote for Hanura’s Wiranto if the presidential election was held today; but as we can see with Hanura’s poor showing of 5.5% yesterday, there was no ‘Wiranto effect’. Similarly Golkar’s Bakrie got a weak figure of 9.3% on the same electability question by poll respondents, yet Golkar received a far better 14.3% of the actual vote yesterday; there was no ‘reverse Bakrie effect’ either.

There appears to have been little correlation between presidential candidates (un-)popularity and their party’s total vote. With the sheer complexity of Indonesian elections, it seems far more likely that party’s successes are to be found in their resources, organization and the quality of their candidates. As Cyrus Network’s Hasan Hasbi stated in The Jakarta Post, ‘”Many hopefuls thought that banners picturing them with Jokowi would be enough. Well, it’s not,”…Nowadays, he said, the public demanded more: Real work and proven-track records.’

Parties and analysts alike may have to look elsewhere in future for the key to election success.


David Willis ([email protected]) is a PhD candidate at the School of International Studies at Flinders University. He is currently researching the role of domestic politics in Indonesia’s foreign policy alignment.