Five things you need to know about Indonesia’s 2024 elections


Five things you need to know about Indonesia’s 2024 elections

WFD's elections expert, Tanja Hollstein, discussed key insights from a conversation with WFD's Country Director in Indonesia, Ravio Patra, following the elections in Indonesia held on 14 February 2024.
A picture of polling booth with election officials working during elections in Indonesia


The world’s largest single-day elections were held in Indonesia on 14 February 2024. WFD’s elections expert Tanja Hollstein spoke to WFD Country Director in Indonesia, Ravio Patra, about the elections, which UK Ambassador to Indonesia Dominic Jermey called “a truly epic festival of democracy.”  

Here are five key takeaways from their discussion on 20 March 2024. 

1. It was a historic, record-breaking event 

Indonesia’s 2024 general election was monumental, not just within the context of its own history but also on a global scale. It marked a significant milestone in the nation's democratic journey, being the fifth direct election since the fall of Suharto's 32-year New Order regime in 1998. With over 204 million eligible voters called to cast their ballots at 820,000 polling stations, the elections were a massive logistical feat and “a testament to how important democracy is to the Indonesian people.” The 82.39% voter turnout ranks Indonesia well above the global average of 65.6%.  

2. Democratic challenges remain and intensify 

Echoing global trends, scholars and activists have raised concerns about democratic regression in Indonesia. Weakened opposition, oligarchic dominance, vote-buying, shrinking civic space, and deteriorating human rights conditions are all major challenges that threaten Indonesia’s democracy. Notably, the election took place against a backdrop of what some commentators have viewed as increased governmental interference in the judiciary, especially following the controversial Constitutional Court ruling to lower the age limit of presidential candidates. Chief Judge Anwar Usman was later dismissed from his position for violating the court’s code of ethics in presiding over the case. 

3. Dissatisfaction and mistrust have deeper roots 

The factors affecting public trust on the electoral process stretch back long before an electoral campaign kicks off. The behaviour of key political stakeholders plays a significant role. Ahead of the election, President Joko Widodo expanded his governing coalition to include eight of the nine political parties in parliament, which effectively weakened opposition power and limited scrutiny and oversight. Weakened civil society and insignificant political debates created doubts that the elections would “discipline the elites.” Previously, the central government had delayed subnational elections and instead appointed interim leaders in 272 local administrations. Some experts have alleged that these appointments impacted electoral integrity negatively as “handpicked interim leaders [...] use the advantages of incumbency to promote central government interests at the expense of others.” 

4. Political dynasty is again a major problem 

President Joko Widodo’s victory in 2014 was celebrated as a win for democracy. His civilian, non-military, and non-political family background contrasted with the New Order regime’s legacy of nepotism and cronyism. Following his re-election in 2019, however, his family began to shift into political careers—marked by his eldest son Gibran Rakabuming’s mayorship in Surakarta, youngest son Kaesang Pangarep’s chairpersonship of the Indonesian Solidarity Party (PSI), and son-in-law Bobby Nasution’s mayorship in Medan. Chief Constitutional Judge Anwar Usman, the president’s brother-in-law, presided over the case that resulted in the lowering of presidential candidates’ age limit, which cleared the way for Gibran Rakabuming to be the running mate of eventual President-elect Prabowo Subianto. Experts have criticised the president for “bending rules to build his political dynasty” which involved “a massive and expensive campaign that [...] co-opted government agencies and programs to promote Prabowo and Gibran” during the election campaign. 

5. Young voters and social media were key to victory 

More than half of the eligible voters in this election were aged 17–40. This places the younger generation at the heart of Indonesia’s democracy, signifying a dynamic shift in political engagement and potential for future policy direction. To engage with young voters, candidates significantly leveraged social media channels to shape political discourse and electoral outcomes, with President-elect Prabowo Subianto spending double in social media advertisement than his two competitors combined. As young voters tend to “rely on social media and the influence of their peers” in accessing information, misinformation and disinformation remain a big problem. In fact, it has become more sophisticated and harder to identify and address in this election. These phenomena reflect a global trend where information literacy and engagement are increasingly becoming a decisive factor in political campaigns—offering new avenues for voter engagement and participation. 

To sum up 

Since transitioning from the authoritarian New Order regime, Indonesia has embarked on a path of progressive democratic reforms. The introduction of term limits for presidents and local leaders, implementation of legislated quota for women’s candidacy in elections, and establishment of key accountability institutions (e.g., the Corruption Eradication Commission, Commission on Violence against Women, Constitutional Court, and Judicial Commission) signify Indonesia's efforts to fortify its democracy. These reforms aim to enhance political inclusivity, accountability, and transparency within the domestic political landscape, laying the foundation for a more robust democratic governance structure. 

The 2024 general elections encapsulated the successes and challenges of Indonesia's democratic evolution. They highlighted the nation's commitment to democratic participation, the significant role of the youth in shaping the future political direction, and the ongoing efforts towards democratic reforms. However, it also brought to light the critical challenges that need addressing to safeguard the integrity of Indonesia's democracy.  

The story is far from over, with the Constitutional Court’s proceedings on the election dispute case brought forward by the losing presidential candidates still ongoing. 

But, as Indonesia continues to navigate its democratic journey, the insights from the 2024 election will be invaluable in guiding future efforts towards a more inclusive, accountable, and resilient democratic system.