Shotaro Tani, Jakarta – Indonesian President Joko Widodo still holds a commanding lead in polls released just two weeks before the world's third-biggest democracy goes to the polls, but his gap over rival Prabowo Subianto has slightly narrowed.
The April 17 presidential election is a rematch of 2014, when Widodo, commonly known as Jokowi, beat the former army general.
The gap between two camps narrowed to 18.8% in March from 21.3% the previous month, according to a survey by IndoBarometer released Tuesday. The "electability" of Widodo and running mate Ma'ruf Amin, a senior Muslim cleric, stood at 50.8%. This compared with 32% for Subianto and his vice presidential candidate, Sandiaga Uno.
Hadi Suprapto Rusli, a researcher at IndoBarometer, said Tuesday the president's camp enjoys a healthy lead because there is a "high approval rate of Widodo's performance as the incumbent."
He also noted that Widodo's "three new card" program – a promise of benefits to underprivileged people seeking jobs, university education, and more affordable food staples – is proving popular. Other recent polls have shown that Widodo enjoys strong support from those on the lower rung of the social ladder, while the highly educated tend to support Subianto.
Widodo's camp is aware that Prabowo enjoyed a late surge in popularity in 2014 that led to a closer than expected outcome. That led Subianto to contest the result, with the matter eventually being taken to the constitutional court.
But Rusli said he expects such a surge to be "much less likely" this time because polling day is drawing close. "The undecided voters are less likely to all vote for Prabowo," he said. "Jokowi's supporters are relatively stable, unless there are [widespread] abstentions."
However, Widodo's camp is taking no chances. The president made an unexpected visit to a trial run of the MRT, Indonesia's first mass rapid transit system, after a survey by Kompass, a respected Indonesian newspaper, released in late March showed the gap narrow to 11.8%. The MRT was Widodo's signature project when he was the Jakarta governor.
A separate survey published Tuesday by LSI Denny showed the approval rating of Widodo's camp at 56.8%-63.2%, while Subianto's team scored 36.8%-43.2%.