Indonesia’s Prabowo keeps strong lead in election poll but runoff looms

By Kate Lamb and Ananda Teresia

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesian presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto has a commanding lead but is stagnating in popularity just a few weeks out from next month’s election, an opinion poll showed on Thursday, raising the chance of a second-round runoff in June.

The world’s third-largest democracy holds an election on Feb. 14, but the latest survey by Indikator Politik shows that despite a huge 20-point lead, Defence Minister Prabowo is no closer to the more than 50% of the vote required to win in a single round.

The Dec. 30 to Jan. 6 survey showed the former special forces commander had the support of 45.8% of the 1,200 respondents, with 25.5% backing former Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan, who moved into second place for the first time in Indikator’s surveys.

The ruling party’s Ganjar Pranowo was the top choice of 23% of respondents and 5.8% were undecided.

“Prabowo’s popularity might continue to stagnate unless he does something big,” said Burhanuddin Muhtadi, Indikator’s executive director. “We cannot be sure if the election will be one round or two rounds.”

If no candidate secures votes from more than half of the 205 million eligible voters, a runoff will be held on June 26.

Prabowo, 72, is contesting his third successive presidential election having lost in 2014 and 2019 to the hugely popular incumbent Joko Widodo, better known as Jokowi, who cannot seek a third term.

In a move to tap into his former rival’s support base, Prabowo in October picked Jokowi’s 36-year-old son, Gibran Rakabuming Raka, as his running mate and rose rapidly in the polls, a trajectory many analysts have attributed to the president’s tacit support.

The Australian National University’s Marcus Mietzner, who was part of the panel analysing the latest polling results, said Prabowo has a big chance to win, either in one round or two.

“The difference with his competitors is 20%. That is huge,” he said. “In elections in other countries, with a 20% difference, an election would be considered done.”

The recent rise in popularity for Anies, an academic and a former education minister, follows a series of strong performances in recent election debates. He is also gaining traction in one of the key battleground provinces of East Java, the Indikator poll showed.

Voter turnout will be a key factor in determining whether the vote goes to a second round, said Indikator analyst Kennedy Muslim, particularly given Prabowo’s popularity among Gen-Z voters, or those born after 1997, whose turnout in the last election was far below the national rate.

(Editing by Martin Petty)