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Zooming in on the Digital Aspects of the Indonesian Elections 2024

Zooming in on the Digital Aspects of the Indonesian Elections 2024

Published on
9 Feb 2024
Written by
Rizal Shidiq, Diyi Liu and Justin Yeung
On 14th February 2024, Indonesia will hold its fifth direct presidential election since transitioning to democracy in 1998.

The context and relevance of the 2024 Indonesian election

On Valentine’s Day, 14th February, 2024, Indonesia will hold its fifth direct presidential election since transitioning to democracy in 1998. Over 204 million registered voters across the archipelago will flock to polling stations to cast their votes from over 300,000 candidates vying for over 20,000 national and local legislative seats.

Indonesia employs an open-list proportional representation system for its multiparty parliamentary elections, while the presidency is elected by a national first-past-the-post popular vote. With current President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) reaching term limits, recent polls suggest a competitive contest among three candidates (The Economist, 2024). Leading is the incumbent defence minister Prabowo Subianto, running with 36-year-old Gibran Rakabuming Raka, current president Jokowi’s eldest son, in a big tent bid to galvanise establishment backers alongside populists and conservative Muslims. Next is former Jakarta Governor and education minister Anies Baswedan with Muhaimin Iskandar, head of Islam-based National Awakening Party, mainly targeting urban middle class voters. Finally, comes the popular technocratic and former Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo, paired with Mahfud MD, current coordinating minister for politics, legal, and security affairs, aiming to gain support from the populous Muslim majority (see The Jakarta Post for detailed candidate profiles).

Voters will cast ballots for not only the presidency, but also for seats in the People’s Consultative Assembly and Regional Representative Council that comprise the national legislature, as well as provincial governors and district/municipal legislative bodies. Each ticket represents established political blocs, though most Indonesian parties comprise heterogeneous elements rather than solely ideological bases.

Digital Media, Election Integrity, and Democracy

The 2024 election represents a critical test for Indonesian democracy as a young, predominantly Muslim nation. Indonesia is classified as a partly free democracy: while the country has held free and fair elections with peaceful transitions of power since the end of the authoritarian regime in 1998, civil liberties can be limited due to e.g. the discrimination of minority groups or the politicised use of blasphemy laws (Freedom House, 2023). For some years, the country has witnessed democratic backsliding through systematic state efforts to weaken opposition groups and concentrate power (Power, 2018). More recently, the political manoeuvring in the high-level Constitutional Court enabled Gibran Rakabuming Raka, the incumbent president’s son, to controversially run for vice president (for Prabowo, Jokowi’s previous-two elections rival), underscoring worries that Indonesian democracy is creeping towards dynastic politics (Paddock and Suhartono, 2024). Adding to these concerns around fair democratic processes are the increasing threats from online spaces – where false information, secretive computational propaganda campaigns and unchecked digital advertising increasingly undermine election integrity.

Digital platforms have become fiercely contested spaces integral to the country’s democratic discourse. With over 66% of Indonesians now online as internet penetration expands, digital spaces are poised to shape the 2024 polls even more profoundly than in the past (BPS-Statistics Indonesia, 2023). Nearly half the country’s internet users fall between the key voting ages of 25-46, while tech-savvy millennials and Gen Z comprise over 50% of registered voters. Indonesians really love the internet and social media: they spend 7 hours 42 minutes on the internet daily – out of which 3 hours 18 minutes are on social media (Statista, 2023). While this has enabled more interactive, participatory, and personalised political campaigning, the serious dangers of hate speech, ethnic and religious polarisation and orchestrated viral mis/disinformation become severe. While not a completely new phenomenon since it had been started in the 2012 Jakarta governor election (Sastraamidjaja, Rasidi, & Elsitra, 2022), the growing potential disinformation and political polarisation coming from the buzzers’ activities in the Indonesian political online sphere is alarming, as seen in the 2014 and 2019 elections (Hui, 2020) and recent anti-Rohingya campaigns (Ratcliffe, 2024).

On the other hand, higher exposure to social media also means a new way for the candidates to reach voters. In doing so, they reveal the signals about themselves (their identities) and, perhaps inadvertently, their political alliances (their connections). All presidential candidates, and to some extent parliamentary candidates, are very active in social media platforms to woo voters. For example, Anies-Muhaimin, and later on Ganjar-Mahfud, have held a well-attended series of live interactive TikTok forums. A bit of a caveat on social media effects, though: voters still rely on TV as their main sources of information on social and political issues (53 percent). Only 26 percent get the political info from Tiktok and merely 7.2 percent from X (formerly Twitter) (Indikator, 2024. Note: respondents can indicate more than one media source). Thus, online campaigns might not really work for quite a significant number of voters.

Not wanting to miss out on the trend, AI is also becoming more popular for the candidates. For example, to soften his image as a former military man and allegedly a human rights abuser, Prabowo camp deliberately uses AI to create his and his running mates’ images into cartoons!  Anies and Ganjar camps also launch AI (or digital) platforms – i.e., and So far, the candidates have used AI for visual image manipulation. Whether they also use it for more sophisticated voter profiling, targeting, and manipulating is still unknown at this point.

An illustration of four cats in a room with an armchair and books.

AI image of a man

Visions of the Presidential Candidates on Innovation and Technology

Looking beyond social media’s double-edged impacts, the leading presidential candidates have outlined policy visions speaking to Indonesia’s digital transformation and development. Taking the cue from their official (short) vision statement, Prabowo throws the words “digital economy” as part of a national security and resiliency agenda and “technology” as part of a human resource development agenda. Ganjar wants Indonesia to excel in science and “technology” and “digital ecosystem” by prioritising high-speed and affordable “internet”. Of course, the notion of digital and/or technology can be found in the extended versions of all candidates’ proposals and conversations (see Purwanto, 2023 and CNN Indonesia, 2024), but whether they make it into the main vision statement may tell something about the candidates’ priority.

All candidates share the same concern on the digital economy, with some variation on its links with small and medium enterprises, creative economy, and infrastructure quality. For instance, Anies and Ganjar also seem to open the possibility to revise the controversial Law on Electronic Information and Transactions (UU ITE), that is oftentimes used to silence the political opposition, disguised as defamation and blasphemy in social media.

All being said, beyond the papers and rhetoric, there is no credible signal that the candidates, once in power, would put consequential digital technology reform into action.

Navigating the Digital Landscape: Multistakeholder Approaches to Understand the 2024 Election

To champion meaningful reforms and regulations aimed at promoting more accountable, rights-respecting digital governance, stakeholders across various sectors are actively navigating the digital landscapes surrounding the 2024 election. From academic initiatives to governmental frameworks, as well as collaborative efforts with digital platforms, these endeavours collectively contribute to the pursuit of electoral integrity and informed civic participation.

In November 2023, the Indonesian General Election Commission (KPU) released the official list of candidates with their short profile or curriculum vitae (CV). In this light, the Leiden Humanities AI and NLP Lab (Leiden HumAN) and the Leiden Institute of Area Studies (LIAS) launched the Political Social Network in Indonesia (POLISONI) project to collect CVs and images of over 300, 000 candidates. Thanks to the publicly accessible digital platform offered by the Election Commission, the project creates a large-scale, multimodal and open-access database of aspiring politicians in the context of Indonesia to allow for studies on Indonesian politics.

Preliminary analysis revealed that only roughly 80% of the full profiles are publicly available. In the coming months, the project will utilise this dataset to expand the study of politics in Indonesia beyond national level candidates, but also the provincial and district level political environments. More importantly, with the help of the profile data, it will apply social network analysis to map out how politicians are connected with one another in terms of previous education, employment and familial ties. It will also shed light on how candidates’ self-representation relates to their political positions, religious affiliations and electability through analysis of the text (i.e. platform and slogans) and image data (i.e. profile pictures) in the database.

Governmental initiatives like the Election Supervisory Agency’s (Bawaslu) multidimensional Election Vulnerability Index (IKP) now enable granular mapping of socio-political risks to pre-emptively safeguard electoral integrity. Major platforms like Meta and TikTok have also responded by implementing special election designated content moderation policies, yet consistently identifying and addressing trolling and harassment continues to pose challenges. Considering this, Indonesian civil society groups, multilateral organisations, along with Election Management Bodies (EMBs), have been urging technology platforms to embrace greater transparency and accountability in their content moderation policies and practices to protect election integrity. A major development occurred in January 2024 when major platforms signed on to the DAMAI Coalition and UNESCO’s social media for Peace Project joint commitments to fight disinformation, identity discrimination and hate speech, protect children, ensure transparency of political advertising, and guarantee access to platform data for independent research and monitoring.

As the official election campaign period concludes on 10th February, the last days ahead of polls will certainly be interesting from a political as well as from an Internet research perspective. After the election, it remains to be seen how the new government follows through on important technology policy rhetoric as leader of the world’s third largest democracy and Southeast Asia’s largest economy. The 2024 race spotlights how the country is balancing the promise and perils of continued digital transformation and an increasingly digital public sphere.

References and further reading recommendations.

To gain greater perspective on the policies and stakeholders governing online material in Indonesia:

BPS-Statistics Indonesia. (2023). Telecommunication Statistics Indonesia, 2022. Jakarta: BPS-Statistics Indonesia

CNN Indonesia. (2023). ‘Adu Strategi Program Ekonomi Digital Ala Anies, Prabowo dan Ganjar’. Available at: (Accessed: 27 January 2024)

Freedom House. (2023a). Indonesia: Freedom in the World 2023 Country Report. Freedom House. (Accessed: 05 February 2024)

Freedom House. (2023b). Indonesia: Freedom on the Net 2023 Country Report. Freedom House. (Accessed: 05 February 2024)

Indikator. (2024). Efek Elektoral Debat Capres: Perbandingan Temuan Survei Tatap Muka dan Survei Telepon. Available at: (Accessed: 26 January 2024).

Hui, J. Y. (2020). Social Media and the 2019 Indonesian Elections. Southeast Asian Affairs, 155-172.

Paddock, R.C. and Suhartono, M. (2024). ‘A President’s Son Is in Indonesia’s Election Picture. Is It Democracy or Dynasty’. New York Times, 6 January. Available at: (Accessed: 26 January 2024).

Purwanto, A. (2023). ‘Menakar Arah Transformasi Ekonomi Digital Para Calon Pemimpin’. Kompas, 23 December. Available at (Accessed, 27 January 2024).

Ratcliffe, R. (2024). The online hate campaign turning Indonesians against Rohingya refugees. The Guardian, 18 January. Available at:

Sastramidjaja, Y., Rasidi, P.P., & Elsitra, G.N. (2022). Peddling Secrecy in a Climate of Distrust: Buzzers, Rumours and Implications for Indonesia’s 2024 Elections. Perspective, Singapore: ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute

Statista. (2023). ‘Average daily time spent using various media and devices in Indonesia in 3rd quarter 2022, by activity’. Available at:,Indonesia%20Q3%202022%2C%20by%20activity&text=As%20of%20the%20third%20quarter,on%20social%20media%20every%20day. (Accessed: 26 January 2024).

The Economist. (2024). Who will be the next president of Indonesia? Available at: (Accessed: 04 February 2024)

Thomas P. Power (2018) Jokowi’s Authoritarian Turn and Indonesia’s Democratic Decline, Bulletin of Indonesian Economic Studies, 54:3, 307-338, DOI: 10.1080/00074918.2018.1549918


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