Indonesia’s 2014 elections: The power of social media

Is social media the new battleground for Indonesia politicians? Yes, it definitely is. The vast majority of politicians across the Indonesia landscape are starting to realize that social media is a game-changer and valuable tool to not only connect to young voters of the country, but the go-to vehicle to disseminate political campaigning messages to the masses rapidly.  While this concept of political campaigning through social media is not a revolutionary concept in the U.S., the notion is ground-breaking in Indonesia.

The 2014 elections will be a political turning point for Indonesia, because this will be a true testament to the country’s generally new democratic governmental structure.  According to the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) World Factbook, Indonesia was formerly an authoritarian government, and in 1998 began constructing a democratic constitution, incorporate civil rights, holding elections, and moving toward a democratic government structure. The country’s 16-year democratic run will be tested this year as first-time Indonesian voters rise to the majority of the country’s population and actively use social media to engage in political discourse.

With the Presidential elections occurring in July, the outcome will be determined by the ability of politicians to use social media to their advantage. Recently, Indonesian elections took place for the legislative assembly seats on April 9. The outcome was a loss of more than half of the current the ruling democratic party’s seats. Young voters were the paradigm shift in the overall outcome of legislative elections.

Social media is Pandora’s Box

The traditional mainstream media outlets have always played the primary role as the vehicle of political messaging in Indonesia.  With high censorship in the Indonesian political messaging delivered and communicated to the public through mainstream media outlets, a one-way communication system was established and in a sense, accepted. As the rise of voters opt in to receive their political engagement and information through social media and Internet, mainstream media’s role minimizes and social media now serves as a catalysts of change within the political discourse system. Research illustrates that the concept of gatekeeping goes out the door when social media takes a prominent role as the messaging vehicle in the political discourse with voters. This opens Pandora’s Box for voters to have the ability to have two-way communication with political candidates within the 2014 elections. Young voters will now have the ability to search and cultivate for the political news that resonates to the issues that matter to them. Lastly, the notion of the private self versus the public self that interacts via social media comes to the forefront.

I tweet, therefore I vote?

A record number of tech-savvy, young Indonesian voters are attracting the attention of politicians for good reason.  Younger voters are the shift to winning or losing an election. According to the Asia Foundation, the 2014 democratic election season will have over 70 million Indonesians reaching voting age. Additionally, about 90 percent of the voters are actively using social media platforms to engage in political and civic participation.The most popular platforms are Facebook and Twitter.  Forbes states that Indonesia’s capital Jakarta is considered the “Twitter city” of the world. As far as rankings, Indonesia ranks fifth behind U.S., Brazil, Japan, and the U.K. as the most active on Twitter. Approximately 30 million Indonesian’s tweet daily and this reflects the significance of importance the first-time voters mean in the political conversation online and the general election.

It will be interesting to see the outcomes of the July presidential elections in Indonesian.  Examining what will be the developed rules for engagement for politicians and the public when using social media. What will social media evolve to for the country?  How social media will be used or abused for political agendas? How will social media provide a voice to young voters? What will the election outcomes reveal about the access in the terms of two-way communication? Can political candidates in Indonesia do what U.S. President Barack Obama did with social media in the 2008 presidential election and connect with young voters? Let me know your thoughts.

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