Indonesia’s upcoming presidential election on February 14 is set to be heavily influenced by social media, particularly the popular platform TikTok. With 274 million people in the country, millennials and Gen Z voters make up a significant portion of the electorate, accounting for 56.5%. As a result, candidates are now focusing their efforts on reaching these voters through engaging content on TikTok.
TikTok has emerged as a key battleground for the presidential candidates in Indonesia. With 125 million monthly active users, Indonesia is the second biggest market for TikTok, making it an essential platform for candidates to connect with voters and share campaign updates. Each of the three candidates, Ganjar Pranowo, Prabowo Subianto, and Anies Baswedan, has recognized the importance of TikTok and is actively producing youth-oriented content to appeal to this demographic.
Prabowo Subianto, the frontrunner in the polls, has strategically crafted a “gemoy” or cute image for his campaign on TikTok. This approach is a departure from his previous campaigns, which emphasized his macho image. On TikTok, Prabowo has presented himself as sensitive and vulnerable, focusing on moments that evoke empathy. One of his most successful campaign posts on TikTok, with 49 million views, showed Prabowo appearing to be on the verge of tears after facing tough questioning in a presidential debate. This portrayal has resonated with many young female supporters who expressed solidarity with him through videos of themselves crying.
Anies Baswedan, the former governor of Jakarta, has found unexpected popularity among K-pop fans on TikTok, defying his association with conservative Islam. Through live broadcasts known as “Desak Anies,” which translates to “Interrogate Anies,” he engages with his followers directly by answering questions on various topics, including his political program and even advice on first dates. Anies has leveraged his popularity among K-pop fans, particularly young women, through the use of Korean hangul captions in his campaign posts on TikTok.
Ganjar Pranowo, the former governor of Central Java, has taken a different approach on TikTok. His campaign focuses on showcasing his humble roots and authenticity. While utilizing gimmicks like “Top Gun”-style jackets and penguin symbols, Ganjar’s campaign team highlights videos of him naturally interacting with voters on the ground. They prioritize unpolished videos that align with TikTok’s algorithm, which values authenticity and originality over polished content. This strategy aims to resonate with TikTok’s predominantly young user base.
For older politicians, TikTok campaigning has presented challenges. Mahfud MD, Ganjar’s running mate, had to adapt to the platform’s unique format and style by emulating Anies’ live broadcasts. Initially, it was awkward for the 66-year-old minister and former chief justice of the constitutional court, but he quickly adapted to the platform’s requirements.
With TikTok’s growing popularity as a political platform, concerns about misinformation have also risen. In past Indonesian elections, social media platforms were rife with misinformation, propagated by bots and influencers hired to promote certain agendas. TikTok, in an effort to combat this issue, has implemented strict policies. Political advertising or fundraising by politicians and parties is not allowed on the platform. Additionally, TikTok has partnered with government bodies, NGOs, and news agencies like Agence-France Presse to tackle misinformation. Despite these efforts, hoaxes and misleading content still surface on TikTok, highlighting the need for continuous monitoring and fact-checking.
The Future of Politics and TikTok
As TikTok continues to shape the political landscape in Indonesia, it is clear that the platform holds significant influence, especially among young voters. The ability to connect with voters on a personal and relatable level through TikTok has revolutionized political campaigning in the country. However, with the power of TikTok comes the responsibility to combat misinformation and ensure a fair and transparent electoral process.
TikTok has emerged as the battleground for Indonesia’s presidential election. Candidates recognize the importance of engaging with young voters through this platform and have tailored their content accordingly. Each candidate has taken a different approach, whether it be Prabowo’s vulnerable persona, Anies’ connection with K-pop fans, or Ganjar’s emphasis on authenticity. However, as the influence of TikTok grows, so does the challenge of controlling misinformation. Moving forward, it is crucial for politicians, social media platforms, and voters to work together to ensure the integrity of the electoral process in the digital age.