JAKARTA: Tens 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, as campaigning draws to a close ahead of the world’s biggest single-day election.
Candidates will enter a cooling off period from Sunday to election day on Wednesday, where three contestants are 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 former governors Ganjar Pranowo and Anies Baswedan, and ex-special forces commander Prabowo Subianto, who has soared in opinion polls with the tacit backing of the president, and with the incumbent’s son 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.
More than 20,000 legislative and administrative posts will also be contested by 259,000 candidates.
Supporters at Anies’ last rally in the capital filled a 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.”
In Solo, the biggest party’s 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.
Incumbent Widodo, better known as Jokowi, has faced a storm of allegations that he has interfered to try to sway the outcome of the election by making highly publicised 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.
Thousands of Prabowo’s supporters, clad in his signature light blue, gathered at another stadium in Jakarta, where the defence minister, contesting his third successive election, will hold a rally later on Saturday.
Prabowo got a boost on Friday when the opinion poll by Indikator Politik Indonesia showed him with 51.8% support, far ahead of Anies at 24.1% and Ganjar at 19.6%, with 4.5% undecided.
If no candidate wins a majority, a run-off between the top two will be held in June.
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. – Reuters