This first presidential debate was a bit disappointing. Not only had the questions been distributed among the participants beforehand (implying that answers had been prepared carefully by both sides) and were the participants allowed to read the answers from paper, but the words of both pairs also lacked real substance.

An example is when presidential hopeful Prabowo Subianto said he would improve the quality of life for all bureaucrats by raising their wages (if elected as president). He added that the money that would be required to raise civil servants' wages comes from more tax revenue (he said he would raise the country's tax ratio to 16 percent, from around 10 percent currently). This statement is meaningless, however, if Subianto does not explain how he wants to increase Indonesia's tax ratio (or, in other words, where and how he will get more tax revenue).

Meanwhile, as a pair, Widodo and Amin did not really make a good impression. In the first half of the debate, 75-year-old renowned Islamic scholar Amin basically did not say a word and that made this pair look quite awkward, while Prabowo and Uno actually showed some good teamwork (in terms of answering the questions). Only when the topics involved religion and terrorism, Amin started to speak but - like the others - his answers were rather superficial.

What is interesting is that this first debate seems to have slightly narrowed the gap between both presidential hopefuls. Based on our poll (which is available below), Widodo could rely on 59.6 percent of votes prior to the debate, while Subianto could count on 30.8 percent of the votes. After the first presidential debate, however, Widodo's support fell to 59.2 percent, while Subianto's support grew to 31.1 percent (whereas in recent months the numbers had been very stable).

Indeed the gap between both men remains big. However, we assume that the gap is much narrower in reality as our poll is also open to votes from non-Indonesians (who we assume tend to favor Widodo).


This articles discusses:

the first presidential debate
reactions to the debate
impact on opinion polls

Read the full article in the January 2019 edition of our monthly research report. This report is scheduled to be released in early February 2019. You can purchase the report by sending an email to or a WhatsApp message to the following number: +62(0)8788.410.6944

Poll Indonesia Investments:

Who would you vote for in Indonesia's 2019 presidential election?

Voting possible:  -


  • Joko Widodo (57.6%)
  • Prabowo Subianto (31.9%)
  • No opinion (5.7%)
  • Someone else (4.8%)

Total amount of votes: 16331