Incumbency Disadvantages and Populism in Indonesian Local Elections: Case Studies of Banda Aceh and Takalar

Nurlinah Nurlinah(1*), Rizkika Lhena Darwin(2), Haryanto Haryanto(3)

(1) Department of Politics and Government, Hasanuddin University
(2) Department of Political Science, Ar-Raniry State Islamic University
(3) Department of Politics and Government, Hasanuddin University
(*) Corresponding Author


This article seeks to contribute an understanding of  how populism informs incumbency disadvantages in elections. Incumbency has been seen as highly beneficial in elections, and many studies have found that incumbent candidates enjoy significant access to resources with which they can campaign. This article, however, finds a different reality, with incumbents in Banda Aceh and Takalar experiencing electoral defeat. In both areas, extensive field studies before and after the local elections found that incumbents’ unwillingness to adopt a populist approach during their terms influenced voters’ choices. The main argument of this article is that, in Indonesia’s local democracies, incumbency has created space for varied models of  populism, including the communitarian populism found in Aceh and Takalar. Such populism has emerged from specific socio-cultural contexts at the local level that have shaped voters’ preferences. The socio-cultural context of  communal societies such as Aceh and Takalar has informed the truth value through which elites, policies, and phenomena are judged. Ultimately, this communitarian populism cannot be separated from the public’s desires for elections. These two cases offer a profile of  how communitarian societies respond to and shape local populism in Indonesia.


incumbency; populism; communitarianism; local election

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