Jokowi Focuses on Winning Millennials, Women as Voting Nears

(Bloomberg) -- With the millennials and women making up about two-thirds of Indonesian voters, President Joko Widodo plans to go all out to woo them with promises of millions of jobs and free education.

The government will set aside funds in its budget to provide free education to poor students until university and create 37 million jobs for millennials if Widodo, known as Jokowi, is voted back, Erick Thohir, the chief of the president’s campaign team, told reporters in Jakarta on Wednesday. The incumbent will also focus on securing the support of the 12-15 percent undecided voters in the April 17 election, he said.

As almost 60 percent of the Indonesian voters are below 35, Jokowi and his challenger Prabowo Subianto are luring them with promises of more jobs and easy access to finance to start businesses. Jokowi, who leads his rival by about 20 points over, is pledging to transfer billions of dollars to villages for financing development projects in a bid to counter urban voters’ disappointment with a stagnant economy.

Indonesia will need to provide 104 million new jobs over the next five years as the nation pursues the fourth industrial revolution and 37 million millennials hit the job market, said Thohir, a business tycoon and the chief organizer of the successful Asian Games hosted by Indonesia last year. “This is why the president believes in a pre-employment card as the government wants to help fresh graduates to have better skills in language and programming.”

While the economy has struggled to fire under Jokowi, the nation’s jobless rate has fallen to near a 20-year low at 5.3 percent. He’s also managed to keep a lid on cost of living pressures as the election approaches with inflation easing in January to 2.8 percent, its lowest level since August 2016.

Still, the opposition has sharpened its attack on Jokowi’s economic performance in recent weeks, seizing on a ballooning trade deficit and surging public debt.

Jokowi’s government has laid the foundation for the Indonesian economy to grow at over 5 percent in the next two decades with its focus on infrastructure development across the archipelago, Thohir said. The president could have clocked a growth target of 7 percent if had chosen to focus only on Java, he said.

Jokowi’s campaign team is focused on winning West Java, the province with the largest number of voters, which he lost to Prabowo in 2014, and retaining Jakarta, Thohir said.

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