It’s been fascinating to watch the use of social media leading up to the 2014 Indonesian presidential election on the 9th July, with both presidential candidates competing against each other on what could be perceived as the most significant battleground of this generation: The Internet.
With the number of brands competing against each other on social media platforms for loyalty of customers using their products or services, witnessing the impact of social media on political campaigns that will determine the future government decisions of a country for the next five years is quite interesting to document.
But before we get into that, let’s have a quick look at the facts regarding social media in Indonesia, and the two political figures battling against each other for the title of President in the third largest democracy in the world.
A Snapshot of Indonesia and its Internet usage
- With a population of over 251 million, Indonesia is the fourth most populated country in the world after China, India and the United States.
- Indonesia is the world’s largest archipelago comprising 13,466 islands, with over 300 ethnic groups and 742 different languages and dialects. It is the largest muslim nation in the world, with Islam being the predominant religion in the country.
- It is a rapidly developing third world country, and one of the fastest growing nations in terms of internet use, despite half the country still living in a rural environment. The country’s internet use is expected to triple within the next five years. The existing figure of 72.7 million internet users in the country, though only 29% of Indonesia’s total population, is still 10 million more than the total population of the United Kingdom.
Introducing the Presidential Candidates…
What I believe makes this 2014 election particularly interesting and unique is the huge contrast between the presidential candidates. As for political platforms, both candidates are sporting very similar stances and promises, with emphasis on the big three: economy; education; energy. So basically the election is ultimately just a popularity contest between personalities, and how their promises will be fulfilled.
Now I don’t want to come across as biased, but let’s just take a quick look at the facts…
- Son-in-law and supporter of Suharto, Indonesia’s second president and corrupt dictator for over 30 years, who led the country to invade and occupy East Timor, causing the genocide of over 100,000 people. Prabowo Subianto comes from an aristocratic background.
- Long political and military background, as a commander in the special forces who led in the capture and shooting of East Timor’s first prime minister and national hero, Nicolau dos Reis Lobato. He was eventually removed from the army following allegations of human rights violations (violently kidnapping student activists, pro-democracy campaigners, etc).
- Banned from entry into United States and Australia, both whom are Indonesia’s political allies, due to the allegations. Might make presidency and keeping up of appearances a little difficult…
Why did people vote for him?
Because he has both political and military experience, and people believe that they need a strong leader to take control of the country and maintain the country’s traditions. Though he comes from the “Old Order” and has quite the questionable history, people believe that it was a different time back then and he has changed for the better now.
Joko Widodo (AKA Jokowi)
- Current well-loved governor of Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital city, where he has successfully led many progressive breakthroughs. Before Jakarta, he was elected mayor of Solo in 2005, where he cleaned up the city and strived to eradicate local corruption. He was ranked in Fortune magazine as one of the World’s 50 Greatest Leaders of 2014. He is a self-made man who started in the furniture business.
- Coming from a relatively poor background himself, he goes for walks and talks to people within the poorer communities, to ask them about their current issues. He still prefers to wear casual clothes in public, and is well known for his checkered shirts to the point where it has become a national meme.
- In contrast to Prabowo who emphasises the importance of military power, Jokowi says military engagement should always be a last resort to solve disputes.
- He has a well-documented passion for heavy rock music, proudly wears metal bands’ t-shirts and used to own a bass guitar signed by Metallica. He held a free rock concert, with his favourite Indonesian music artists performing, for the election day. Yes, he’s a rockstar but will Indonesia consider him president material?
Why did people vote for him?
Because they believe he can bring Indonesia into the new age, so far he has quite an impressive record as the governor of Jakarta and has already made some positive changes. People like his casual, toned-down nature that they can relate to.
Social Media: Jokowi vs Prabowo
Indonesia has a reputation as one of the most social media savvy countries in the world, with users within the Indonesian capital of Jakarta alone accounting for 2.4% of all tweets in the world this year. Jakarta ranks number one city for tweets worldwide, with Tokyo and London coming in second and third. And with Twitter being the great open discussion platform that it is for live debates during current events, Indonesia has certainly lived up to their social media reputation during these crucial election months.
According to the Wall Street Journal, between the 4th and 9th of July, the most mentioned topic on Twitter was Joko Widodo, followed closely by Prabowo Subianto. According to The Guardian’s live coverage of the election, six of the top ten hashtags trending on Twitter were related to the Indonesian Presidential Election. Even during the World Cup 2014 (and even within the hours following the 7-1 victory to Germany).
#KeepCalmAndVoteJokowi came in 2nd for the Top 5 Trending Topics worldwide on the day before the election.
In total, according to Twitter, there have been over 95 million tweets about the Indonesian Presidential Election 2014. And over 200 million Facebook interactions (posts, comments, Shares, and Likes).
Indonesia’s current president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, was until earlier this month the most followed political leader in Asia with over five million Twitter followers. He was also the third most followed world leader, after Obama and Pope Francis. That was until India’s prime minister took over on the 3rd of July. Though to be fair, Yudhoyono only joined Twitter last year, in comparison to India’s prime minister (Narenda Modi) who joined back in 2009.
Though both candidates’ Twitter followers barely carve a scratch into Obama’s Twitter followers (over 44.1 million), it’s interesting to compare the two potential presidents in their online support.
Jokowi currently has over 1.79 million followers on Twitter.
Prabowo currently has 1.05 million followers on Twitter.
Jokowi had 1,009,117 total tweets mentioning him on Election Day.
Prabowo had 841,652 total tweets mentioning him on Election Day.
Time-lapsed heatmap of Jokowi and Prabowo mentions on Twitter.
As for whether those tweets are positive or negative, the sentiment behind the tweets mentioning Jokowi and Prabowo aren’t specified, but Jokowi certainly seems to have grabbed the attention of the Twitter communities.
Jokowi has also received a number of celebrity endorsements, from Sting…
… to Jason Mraz…
… and even to New York’s favourite hardcore punk band Sick Of It All…
And of course Twitter went crazy with selfies of Indo-Twitizens who have voted. A popular selfie hashtag across Twitter and Instagram for Jokowi voters was #Salam2Jari (“Two-finger salute” – the gesture meaning that they voted for Jokowi). The ink on their finger/s signifying that they have voted (and cannot vote again).
In a statement to The Jakarta Post, a spokesperson from Twitter has said:
“From the start of the year to today, this truly has been the first-ever ‘Twitter Election'”.
Humorous Prabowo vs Jokowi videos on YouTube went viral…
The election has even inspired a parody Epic Rap Battle between the two presidents, in the style of the popular Epic Rap Battle meme videos.
But it’s not just about the candidates themselves…
Both candidates prove that democracy works. The fact that there can be two complete polar opposites contending against each other in such a way, representing two major personalities of Indonesia. But it’s not just about the potential presidents’ uses of social media. It’s also about how the election itself is being documented via social media.
According to Transparency International, 89% of Indonesians believe that the national legislature is either corrupt or extremely corrupt. So in a country well known for its high levels of government corruption (and its people’s wariness of it), transparency is key and social media has become a great tool for the exposure of any foul play.
The public have been urged to help maintain the transparency by monitoring the process closely to avoid any obvious manipulations. The counting of votes has been crowd-sourced to the people, based on the official tallies from each polling station scanned and uploaded online by the KPU official counting authority. The results from each polling station are easily available for anyone to see.
Facebook groups have emerged, dedicated to tallying the documents themselves and publishing their results as they count. The KPU have even created a Facebook page for Facebook users to ask questions and submit erroneous C1 forms to. The page admins seem quite responsive and update its followers when a C1 form has been corrected.
Many websites have popped up displaying the KPU’s results and allowing users to enter or verify data from the C1 forms, and double-check/triple-check/quadruple-check the counts of each form. C1 forms document the number of votes for each party, along with the total votes altogether, at each polling station. Volunteers can help by entering the data into the calculator of these websites. For example: 128 + 115 = 243. If the numbers are scribbled over, wrong or suspicious, you can report it.
Unfortunately some of these websites, including Kawal Pemilu and Kawal Suara, have been subjected to DDoS attacks and sweeps of false entries submitted. Both Kawal Pemilu and Kawal Suara websites currently have Jokowi as the winning candidate so far.
Other websites, or social media profiles, such as the “C1 yang aneh” (which literally translates to “strange C1s”) Tumblr-powered website allows users to submit and expose any irregularities in C1 forms.
Of course social media campaigns weren’t going to reach all of Indonesia’s voters…
But how much of an impact does social media make exactly when it comes to political elections such as these? Do viral images and messages online influence the voters’ decision? Do social media figures count toward the success of a political figure, or say anything about their real popularity at all?
And with both sides accusing each other of tampering, will the next president of Indonesia be decided in the Constitutional Court?
UPDATE 22ND JULY 2014: Congratulations, Jokowi!
It has officially been announced by the election commission that Joko Widodo is the new president of Indonesia, with 53.15% of the votes. Hopefully this once-in-a-lifetime, revolutionary election will contribute toward some huge positive changes for the country going forward.
Prabowo walked out during the final count, complaining about a lack of democracy and election fraud. This was widely interpreted as being his withdrawal from candidacy, but his campaign spokesperson has since clarified during a press conference that he merely withdrew himself from the counting process.
Although Jokowi has officially won, Prabowo will be challenging the integrity of the vote in the Constitutional Court. Prabowo’s campaign spokesperson has stated that they “respectfully request the international community to withhold any congratulatory statements until due process is complete”.
Though, considering Jokowi’s online popularity, I think it will take more than a “respectful request” to get people to stop congratulating him…