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Young Indonesian politicos take to social media in run for seats

/ 05:06 PM October 02, 2018

JAKARTA – Towering billboards, colorful banners, tacky posters: these are the usual hallmarks of the political campaign season in Indonesia, but a new generation of legislative candidates is looking to change things up.

About 21 percent of the 7,991 candidates running for a seat in the House of Representatives are aged 21 to 35 years old. Many of them are eschewing traditional forms of campaigning for social media, opting for a refreshing and interactive campaign style as they allow voters to ask questions through various platforms.

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Take 31-year-old Kirana Larasati, a popular television actress-turned-political novice who is now running for a seat in West Java’s first electoral district for the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P).

In a video posted on her Twitter account, Kirana answered questions from her followers about her foray into politics. The video, edited with YouTube vlog-like jump-cuts and spiced up with many popular memes, drew praise from both young voters and more senior politicians.

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“[This is] the campaign style of the millennial era,” fellow PDI-P member and Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo commented as he retweeted the video.

Kirana’s followers commented on the video with questions and suggestions that she was quick to answer, such as who her political role models were (President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and former Jakarta governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama), whether she would leave show business if she was elected (definitely) and whether it was expensive to make the video (she was helped out by friends in the creative industry).

Thirty-four-year-old Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) politician Pipin Sopian has also used Facebook and Instagram as a low-cost way to reach out to voters in his West Java seventh electoral district, which covers Purwakarta and Karawang regencies.

“In the past, we might have had to rent billboards or print banners, which can cost quite a lot. But now, we can raise our public profile and popularity through the digital medium,” he said.

The use of digital campaign methods, he said, meant that he did not have to spend as much time commuting to his electoral district from his home in Bogor. “My strategy is about 60 percent social media and 40 percent going to the field,” he added.

Indonesia Solidarity Party (PSI) House candidate Dedek Prayudi, 33, said social media was a great way to maintain contact with voters he had met in person.

“Last week, I participated in a discussion about how to combat hoaxes and I gave out my business card to the people I met there,” he said. “I noticed that they had followed my social media accounts.”

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Social media observer Agus Sudibyo cautioned, however, that while the medium could be a useful campaign tool, young candidates should not put all their eggs in the social media basket. “It’s not possible to succeed by just using one form of media alone,” he said. “Young candidates have to combine other methods because not everyone has access to social media, especially in less urban areas.”

According to an annual digital report released by We Are Social and Hootsuite, there are around 130 million active social media users in Indonesia, making up about 49 percent of the population. A recent survey by the Indonesian Survey Circle suggests the number may be far lower, with only 28.5 percent of 1,200 respondents saying they had a Facebook, Instagram or Twitter account.

Dedek said there were limitations to the medium.

“I think the most effective way to get someone to vote for you is to form an emotional connection, and that is best done face to face.”

Click here for more elections stories.

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