The Newsletter 69 Autumn 2014

Campaign culture: the strange and the bizarre

Gwenael Njoto-Feillard

This year's presidential elections in Indonesia have been defined as the most important political event of the country’s recent history. And yet in the background of this momentous event was a strange and bizarre culture of political campaigning. Joko Widodo, Governor of Jakarta, a self-made entrepreneur from the town of Solo, won with more than 53 percent of the vote share against Prabowo Subianto, the former son-in-law of President Suharto. But the race turned out to be much closer than thought. Helped by Rob Allyn, a well-known American consultant, the Prabowo camp crafted a no-holds-barred campaign that some observers say was a masterful display of political strategy. This strategy triggered a most bizarre series of events.