Yustinus Paat, Jakarta – Erick Thohir has emerged with the highest electability as a running mate for the upcoming February presidential election in East Java, surpassing rivals, including native-born candidate Muhaimin Iskandar, who has secured a nomination, according to a survey released on Monday.
While Erick has consistently ranked highest in the list of potential vice-presidential candidates at the national level, his strong performance in East Java is particularly significant due to the province's role as a key battleground that often determines the overall election outcome.
The three presidential contenders – former Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan, Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto, and former Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo – will vigorously compete for votes in six provinces on the densely populated island of Java, which is home to around 60 percent of eligible voters.
Prabowo is expected to win in West Java, the country's most populous province, as he did in the last two elections, along with nearby Banten. Meanwhile, Anies is projected to lead in Jakarta, and Ganjar is likely to secure the majority of votes in Central Java and Yogyakarta.
Given this electoral landscape, victory in East Java holds significant importance for each candidate. Since the first presidential election in 2004, the winning presidential candidate has consistently carried East Java.
It's for this very reason that Anies selected Muhaimin as his running mate. Muhaimin is the chairman of the National Awakening Party (PKB), historically affiliated with the country's largest Muslim organization, Nahdlatul Ulama, which has a strong support base in the province.
However, a local survey conducted by Politika Research and Consulting (PRC) suggests that Erick is the favored choice among seven potential vice-presidential candidates.
According to the survey, 16.8 percent of respondents expressed their intent to vote for Erick, who currently holds key positions as the state-owned enterprise minister and chairman of the Indonesian Football Association (PSSI).
Closely trailing is former West Java Governor Ridwan Kamil, with 16.4 percent of the votes, while Muhaimin secures 15.4 percent.
Tourism Minister Sandiaga Uno comes in fourth with 12.6 percent of the votes, followed by President Joko Widodo's son, Gibran Rakabuming Raka (10.8 percent), Democratic Party Chairman Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono (10 percent), and Chief Economic Minister Airlangga Hartarto (1.2 percent).
PRC Executive Director Rio Prayogo pointed to Erick's stature as a respected figure among Nahdlatul Ulama followers. Erick was bestowed an honorary membership of the group's youth wing, Banser, and was entrusted to lead the steering committee for all commemorative events during Nahdlatul Ulama's centennial anniversary earlier this year. He also introduced a Sharia-based business unit within the organization after becoming a member.
"We must acknowledge that voters in East Java are predominantly followers of Nahdlatul Ulama," Rio said.
The survey was conducted from September 7-12 and involved 1,200 respondents from 38 regencies and municipalities in East Java.