Final Indonesia campaign rallies draw tens of thousands

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Supporters attend an election campaign rally by presidential candidate Ganjar Pranowo at the Pakansari Stadium in Bogor, West Java on Feb 9. – AFP photo

JAKARTA (Feb 10): Tens of thousands turned out today for the final campaign rallies of Indonesia’s presidential election, just days ahead of the vote to replace incumbent Joko Widodo in Southeast Asia’s biggest economy.

Nearly 100,000 people were expected to fill the capital Jakarta’s main stadium for a rally in support of frontrunner Prabowo Subianto, while more than 80,000 turned out for rival Anies Baswedan at another stadium in the megalopolis.

Third-time candidate Subianto, Indonesia’s defence minister and a former general, is leading rivals Baswedan and former Central Java governor Ganjar Pranowo by double-digits in polls ahead of Wednesday’s vote.

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 school teacher who drove hours to attend Baswedan’s rally.

“Anies is a trustworthy person, that’s why he could be a good leader.”

The entrances to the stadium in north Jakarta where Baswedan addressed his supporters became so packed that several people fainted, according to an AFP journalist there. Many had camped overnight for the event.

Pranowo was holding two events today in the Javan cities of Semarang and Surakarta.

A spokesperson for Subianto’s campaign told reporters that early turnout for the frontrunner’s afternoon rally was “beyond the expectation of the national campaign team”, adding that most of the stadium had been filled hours before the event.

The 72-year-old ex-general campaigned on a pledge to eradicate extreme poverty, provide free school meals to children and milk to pregnant women, and continue Widodo’s development drive.

More than 204 million Indonesians will choose their next president, parliamentarians and thousands of local officials on February 14.

Ballots will be cast at more than 800,000 polling booths across the volcano-dotted archipelago.

Voters will punch holes in ballots to mark their candidate choice and then dip a finger in Muslim-approved halal ink, a measure to prevent double-voting in the graft-riddled country. – AFP