Indonesian Presidential Candidates End Campaign With Huge Rallies

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Indonesian Presidential Candidates End Campaign With Huge Rallies

On Saturday, tens of thousands of supporters attended rallies in Jakarta and Central Java to mark the end of the official campaign period.

Indonesian Presidential Candidates End Campaign With Huge Rallies

Indonesian presidential candidate Anies Baswedan, front right, and his running mate Muhaimin Iskandar, front left, greet supporters during their campaign rally at Jakarta International Stadium in Jakarta, Indonesia, Saturday, Feb. 10, 2024.

Credit: AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana

Tens of thousands turned out for election rallies over the weekend, as the three presidential hopefuls made their last pitches to the electorate ahead of this week’s election.

The large rallies in Jakarta and Central Java on Saturday marked the end of the official campaigning period for the February 14 election, when around 200 million people are expected to cast their votes to decide who will succeed President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo. As Reuters explains, candidates are now in a cooling-off period before election day, when formal campaigning is banned. In addition to selecting a new president and vice president, voters will also cast ballots for parliamentary and local representatives.

Three candidates are contending for the presidency: former special forces commander and current Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto, former Central Java governor Ganjar Pranowo, and Anies Baswedan, the ex-governor of Jakarta. (For an extensive preview of the election, see here.)

In the latest polls, Prabowo holds a significant lead over his rivals, as he has since October, when he appointed Jokowi’s son, Gibran Rakabuming Raka, as his vice-presidential running-mate. This has been interpreted by many as a de facto endorsement of Prabowo’s campaign by the still-popular president.

“On February 14, we will all determine the future of our children and grandchildren,” Prabowo said at his final rally at a stadium in Jakarta, where his supporters massed in sky-blue regalia. “We strive to bring prosperity to all Indonesian people. We will continue what has been built by previous presidents.”

The question is whether Prabowo manages to pass the 50 percent threshold necessary to clinch the presidency in a single round or be forced to a run-off election against the second-placed candidate in June.

The latest poll from rival agency Indikator Politik Indonesia, which was conducted from January 28 to February 4 and released on Friday, shows the Prabowo-Gibran ticket commanding 51.8 percent support, far ahead of Anies (24.1 percent) and Ganjar (19.6 percent). After factoring in the 4.5 percent of voters who remained undecided, Indikator predicted that Prabowo and Gibran would win 54 percent of the vote on February 14. Another poll published by Lembaga Survei Indonesia, based on a survey of 1,220 respondents conducted between January 29 and February 5, showed Prabowo winning 51.9 percent.

Prabowo’s rise in the polls has been accompanied by claims that Jokowi has improperly interfered with the election process by engineering his son’s selection, via a controversial Constitutional Court ruling in October, as Prabowo’s running-mate. (The court’s chief judge at the time was Jokowi’s brother-in-law.) The goal, critics say, is to ensure his power survives beyond the end of his term in October. Meanwhile, Prabowo has chosen to harness the popularity of the man who bested him in the presidential elections of 2014 and 2019, while attempting to broaden his appeal among Indonesia’s youth. (Gibran is 36 years old, half Prabowo’s age.)

The Anies and Ganjar campaigns have both publicly called on the president to remain neutral, and the notion that an elite pact was predetermining the election surfaced in their final rallies on Saturday.

In his final rally at another stadium in Jakarta, Anies urged his supporters to “fight with conscience” any intimidation on or before February 14.

“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 the candidate, according to Reuters. He added, “Our responsibility is to work together to stop injustice, inequality and bring about change.”

A similar theme dominated the rallies held by Ganjar and his running-mate Mahfud MD held in Surakarta and Semarang in Central Java. As Reuters reported,  Ganjar “rode a cart filled with produce pulled by oxen, underscoring his man-of-the-people style, greeting thousands of supporters braving the rain.” At his rally in Surakarta, coincidentally Jokowi’s hometown, he called on people to vote for him to show “true resistance” against the use of state resources during campaigning. Again, Ganjar did not name either of his rivals, but has previously been vocal in his view that the president should remain neutral.

For his own part, Jokowi said late last month that it was his “democratic and political right” to endorse a candidate in the election, even though he did not plan to exercise this right.