The 2024 presidential election landscape taking shape: “Mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?”

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Illustration: LEONARDO A. PUTONG

Four common gimmicks 

From my observations, there are four gimmicks that are commonly used by presidential hopefuls wishing to contest in the coming 2024 elections. First, the use of cyber space and social media. Almost all figures use this gimmick seriously and optimally to show their performance, propagate discourse and communicate indirectly with target voter groups. Heavy users in this area are Anies Baswedan, Ganjar Pranowo, Ridwan Kamil, Puan Maharani, Erick Thohir and Sandiaga Uno. 

The second gimmick is the use of outdoor media such as billboards, banners and posters placed at strategically visible spots. This trick is especially used to introduce the faces and names of potential candidates to the public. The main target is a certain electorate with limited digital access. Who are the users? Puan Maharani, Erick Thohir, Airlangga Hartarto, Muhaimin Iskandar and Agus Harimurti Yudoyono usually come to mind. 

Third, political safari, in the form of visiting places with certain political goals and content. The term political safari has been popular since the New Order regime. It was often associated with the visits by then Information Minister who was also Golkar party Chairman Harmoko. Ahead of the 2024 presidential election, it can be said that almost all the candidates are now engaging in political safari. They only differ in the intensity. 

Lastly, the use of authority and facilities as a public official. This gimmick often invites controversy and negative sentiments. Even though it is hard to blame, overuse can easily lead to prejudice that populist policies or work visits, for example, are carried out not on the basis of urgency but mere for imagery. This prejudice is often experienced by Erick Thohir and Sandiaga Uno as central government officials, as well as Anies Baswedan, Ganjar Pranowo and Ridwan Kamil as regional heads. 

Gimmick and electability 

According to Butler and Collins (2001), political marketing is a permanent concept that must be carried out by political parties, politicians, or contestants in building public image and trust. They posit that the public will record and store all political activities, political discourse, and concern for the community carried out or shown by political parties or political figures in their minds. 

They will remember this record until the election day when they vote. Thus, many candidates believe that gimmick as a marketing trick must be done consistently to maintain public interest, enrich their memories and strengthen public perception to boost popularity. 

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So, have the gimmicks deployed by the candidates significantly increased their electability? A number of polling institutions regularly releases the electability of potential 2024 presidential candidates. In the past one year, there are three names that are consistently at the top — Defense Minister who is also Gerindra Party chairman Prabowo Subianto, Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo and Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan. 

Read: Prabowo tops presidential candidacy poll by CPCS

Several other names are also competing closely, namely Sandiaga Uno (Tourism and Creative Economy Minister), Ridwan Kamil (West Java Governor), Agus Harimurti “AHY” Yudoyono (Democratic Party chairman), Puan Maharani (Speaker of the House from PDIP), Erick Thohir (SOE Minister) and Airlangga Hartarto (Coordinating Economic Minister who is also Golkar Party chairman). 

Summarized from Detikcom, we can see the relative positions of the potential candidates in a number of surveys and polls released on April 2022: (FIGURE-1)

SMRC also revealed that in the past one year, Ganjar’s electability shot up from a low of 8.8% in March. Interestingly, for the position of vice president, Populi Center announced that Sandiaga Uno was at the top, followed by Anies, Erick Thohir, Ridwan Kamil and Ganjar Pranowo.