Indonesia’s presidential hopefuls on TikTok to woo Gen Zs, millennials

Indonesia’s presidential election is due 14 February and candidates are going all out to win over voters in this country of 274 million. With millennials and Gen Z voters making up 56.5% of the electorate campaigning is often done on social media. One platform in particular has emerged as key, TikTok.

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JAKARTA — Indonesia’s presidential hopefuls are pulling out all stops to win over voters on social media ahead of the Feb. 14 election.

In the country of 274 million, millennials and Gen Z voters make up 56.5% of the electorate — and campaigning on social media is heating up.

One platform in particular has emerged as a key battleground: TikTok.

“In 2019, it was the Instagram election. This time it’s the TikTok election,” says Aryo Seno Bagaskoro, a young spokesperson for the presidential campaign of Ganjar Pranowo, the former governor of Central Java.

With 125 million monthly active users, Indonesia is TikTok’s second biggest market, making the platform key for Indonesians trying to get news and updates about the election.

All three candidates have taken note and are churning out youth-oriented content on TikTok, with Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto dancing for the crowds, the former governor of Jakarta Anies Baswedan courting K-pop fans, and former Central Java governor Ganjar Pranowo promoting penguin-related posts.

For Prabowo, the clear frontrunner who’s polling in the mid-40s, the messaging on TikTok fits into the wider “gemoy,” or cute, image of his presidential campaign.

The approach is markedly different from the macho image adopted by 72-year-old during his previous runs for the presidency in 2014 and 2019.

Rather than videos of him arriving at rallies on the back of stallions and rousing crowds with nationalist speeches, the most popular content on TikTok has portrayed him as having a sensitive — even vulnerable — side.

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One of the most popular campaign posts on TikTok, with 49 million views, appeared to show Prabowo on the verge of tears after tough questioning in the second presidential debate. Many supporters of Prabowo, often young women, posted videos of themselves weeping in solidarity and alleging that Prabowo was a victim of bias.

Anies’ signature has been live broadcasts on TikTok dubbed locally as “Desak Anies,” or “Interrogate Anies.”

Polling in the mid-twenties, he is running neck-and-neck with Ganjar, and cultivating followers who send questions directly to him. Topics vary from his political program to advice on first dates.

From K-pop to ‘Top Gun’

Anies has found unexpected popularity among K-pop fans, mainly young women, belying his past associations with conservative Islam.

One of his supporters is a 22-year-old female student who posts on social media platform X about Anies and his campaign using Korean hangul captions. Much of the footage posted is taken from TikTok.

“He is the perfect fit for K-popification,” the owner of the account told CNBC, asking not to be named for fear of…

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Indonesia’s presidential hopefuls on TikTok to woo Gen Zs, millennials

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