indonesia election

A collection of kooky campaign banners has been doing the rounds on Indonesian social media this week, showing legislative candidates comparing themselves to figures as diverse as Barack Obama, David Beckham, and DreamWorks' Kung Fu Panda (the image on the left is taken from a collection on this forum).

Some are so outlandish we can only hope they are Photoshop jobs by Indonesian satirists like the gang at Malesbanget.com, and others appear to be out of date. But the general theme of candidates going to great lengths to distinguish themselves from the competition is a real phenomenon in Indonesian politics.

Political campaigning in Indonesia has changed in character since the introduction of an open-party list system in 2009. The system is designed to even the playing field for candidates from smaller parties, ensuring better representation across the diverse archipelago, and increase competition between candidates within the same party.

For campaigning, this has meant an increased emphasis on the candidate over the party name and increased personal spending to finance campaigns. Notice on the posters how party logos, which once dominated campaign material, have taken a back seat to superhero symbols, questionable catchphrases and attractive daughters (Australians are no strangers to such campaign techniques).

Party infighting is also evident ahead of the presidential election. Several Democratic Party members have criticised Trade Minister Gita Wirjawan’s decision to step down from his post in order to focus on his potential nomination as the party's presidential candidate. He is accused of putting personal interests over national ones by potentially leading a mass exodus of officials from their posts ahead of the election slated for July.

No matter who replaces Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono as the party's candidate, it will take a superhero effort to bring his or her popularity above that of the two current frontrunners, Prabowo Subianto and Joko Widodo.