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JAKARTA, Indonesia – Hundreds of thousands of supporters of Indonesia’s presidential contenders packed final rallies in the capital Jakarta and the Central Java city of Solo on Saturday, February 10, ahead of the world’s biggest single-day election.
Candidates enter a cooling-off period on Sunday, February 11, running through election day on Wednesday, February 14, when voters will choose among three contestants running to succeed the hugely popular President Joko Widodo, who has led Indonesia for a decade and cannot run again.
The contenders to lead the world’s third-largest democracy are popular ex-governors Ganjar Pranowo and Anies Baswedan, and former special forces commander Prabowo Subianto, who has soared in opinion polls with the tacit backing of the president, and with the incumbent’s son, Gibran Rakabuming Raka, as his running mate.
At stake is the leadership for the next five years of a mineral-rich Group of 20 economy of 270 million people positioning itself as a future destination for multinational firms in the electric vehicle supply chain.
A light-blue wave took over Jakarta’s main sports complex as hundreds of thousands of Prabowo’s supporters gathered, many wearing T-shirts in his signature color.
High-schooler Alfiatnan, 18, said she would vote for Prabowo because this was his third attempt at the presidency. “I think there’s no harm giving opportunity to someone who is trying. His optimistic spirit influenced me to choose him.”
Supporters at Anies’ rally in the capital filled an 82,000-capacity stadium, chanting Islamic prayers. Some stayed overnight to secure a spot to see the former Jakarta governor.
“I arrived here yesterday on purpose because if I had come today, I’m afraid I couldn’t have gotten inside,” said Ida Zubaedah, 50. “I need to be inside because I want to see Anies.”
Anies fired up the crowd, urging them to “fight with conscience” any intimidation before or on voting day.
“Hearing that in the next few days there will be operations, intimidation, opinions being led so that voting will be done in one round for a certain candidate, I believe Indonesian people…will show they are the ones who determine their future,” he said, without naming anyone or presenting any evidence.
Responding to Anies’ claim of expected intimidation, Prabowo’s vice presidential candidate Gibran asked in a campaign appearance for his rival to bring proof.
A spokesperson for Jokowi, as the president is popularly known, did not respond to a request for comment. His administration has ordered civil servants and law enforcement officers to remain neutral.
In Solo, Ganjar rode a cart filled with produce pulled by oxen, underscoring his man-of-the-people style, greeting thousands of supporters braving the rain.
Ganjar, Central Java’s former governor, called on people to vote for him to show “true resistance” against the use of state resources during campaigning, without naming any of his rivals.
At another rally in Central Java, Ganjar’s running mate, Mahfud MD, said Indonesian democracy was “in crisis” and “heading into darkness” because corruption was rising, law had been misused and “the constitution has been played.”
Jokowi has faced allegations of interfering to try to sway the outcome of the election by making highly publicized appearances with frontrunner Prabowo.
Jokowi has responded that a president has the right to campaign, while saying he did not plan to campaign for anyone.
Two closely watched opinion polls on Friday, February 9, and Saturday showed a growing likelihood of Prabowo winning more than 50% of votes, avoiding a run-off between the top two candidates, which would be held in June.
“All the reliable indicators showed, God willing, the election is one round,” Prabowo told reporters after the big rally in Jakarta, saying attendance had exceeded his expectations.
Undecided voters could be critical to former academic Anies and the populist Ganjar to force a second round, a scenario that could change the dynamic of the race.
Prabowo has sought to rebrand his reputation as a hot-tempered nationalist and feared lieutenant of the late strongman ruler Suharto. He now cultivates a gentler image as a cat-loving grandfather with clumsy dancing.
Arya Fernandes of Indonesia’s Centre for Strategic and International Studies said a good turnout was vital if Prabowo aims to win outright next week.
“It depends on whether Prabowo can ensure that his loyalists show up to the polls,” Fernandes said. – Rappler.com