Big election rallies in Indonesia on final day of campaign

Hundreds of thousands of supporters of presidential contenders pack rallies in capital Jakarta and other cities.

Supporters of Indonesia’s Defence Minister and presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto and his running mate Gibran Rakabuming Raka at their campaign rally in Jakarta [Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters]Published On 10 Feb 202410 Feb 2024

Tens of thousands of supporters of Indonesia’s presidential candidates have poured onto its streets as they hold final campaigns before heading to the polls in the world’s biggest single-day election.

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.

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The elections on Wednesday will elect a new president and vice president, in addition to parliamentary and local representatives.

Nearly 100,000 people filled capital Jakarta’s main stadium for a rally in support of frontrunner Subianto, while more than 80,000 turned out for rival Baswedan at another stadium in the megalopolis on Saturday.

Subianto, the 72-year-old former military strongman and Indonesia’s current defence minister, is trying to reshape his reputation as a hardened army figure with a history of accusations of rights abuses.

Subianto, who leads the right-wing Gerindra political party, is backed by a coalition of other parties and has selected controversial 36-year-old Gibran Rakambuming Raka as his running mate.

Defence Minister and presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto [Antara Foto/Dhemas Reviyanto via Reuters]

Thousands of Subianto’s supporters, clad in his signature light blue, gathered at a stadium in Jakarta.

Subianto is running with 66-year-old Mahfud MD, the former coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs, with the two men having pitched themselves as people of humble origins who understand the people of Indonesia.

High-schooler Alfiatnan, 18, said she would vote for Subianto because this was his third attempt at the presidency. “I think there’s no harm [in] giving opportunity to someone who is trying. His optimistic spirit influenced me to choose him.”

Also in the running is Baswedan, the former governor of Jakarta who is running as an independent candidate. The 54-year-old was educated in the United States, entered academia and later went into politics as education minister.

He is running with 57-year-old Muhaimin Iskander, the leader of the National Awakening Party, the largest Muslim political party in Indonesia.

Supporters of Baswedan filled an 82,000-capacity stadium in Jakarta for a grand final rally on Saturday, chanting Islamic prayers. Some stayed overnight to secure a spot to see the politician.

Presidential candidate Anies Baswedan [Achmad Ibrahim/AP]

The streets of Jakarta were brought to a standstill by hoards of scooters and cars heading to the back-to-back rallies.

“We want to witness change,” said Endang Pujiati, a retired teacher who drove hours to attend Baswedan’s rally. “Anies is a trustworthy person, that’s why he could be a good leader.”

A cooling-off period will begin from Sunday until election day, when contestants and their running mates will try to secure their succession to popular President Joko Widodo, who led Indonesia for two five-year terms and cannot run again.

Voting is not compulsory but the country’s election commission said the turnout was 81 percent in 2019, and more than 204 million of Indonesia’s 270 million people are registered to vote. There are 18 national political parties across Indonesia, and 575 parliamentary seats can be taken by candidates.

More than 20,000 legislative and administrative posts will also be contested by 259,000 candidates on Wednesday. If no candidate wins a majority, a run-off between the top two will be held in June.

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.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies