Jokowi stays real in tight election race

Thousands of Jakarta citizens waited hours at a rally for presidential hopeful Joko Widodo, but when he finally arrived on stage, he saw their outstretched arms and turned back.


Standing above the people is not Jokowi’s style.

Instead, he tied a free bandanna around his head and walked off the stage.

Police and organisers exchanged worried glances, but Jokowi ignored their advice and spoke from in front of the platform.

“Today, we’re here to fight money politics, to fight election cheating,” he said.

“Watch your neighbourhood, don’t let anyone distribute money to buy votes.”

Jakarta’s popular governor was the favourite for the July 9 election, but the more than 20 per cent lead he had over Prabowo Subianto in March has almost vanished.

The race has polarised voters and there have been some spiteful smear campaigns, including one questioning Jokowi’s religion.

At this central Jakarta rally on Thursday, supporters were encouraged not to engage in any nastiness.

Rock bands played to the open-air crowd, but the most popular song was any cover of Jokowi’s catchy campaign song “Salam Dua Jari” (Two-Finger Greeting) – referring to his number two placing on the ballot paper.

One warm-up act was supporter Ahmad Nasihun, who told the crowd he had walked about 500km across Java to collect signatures on a large rolled-up sheet.

“Without our help, who will help Jokowi, poor Jokowi?” Ahmad said.

A more typical Jokowi supporter, but no less passionate, was university student Dimas.

“I hashtag for Jokowi on Facebook and Twitter,” he said. “Jokowi is humble, he’s a people person.”

After his brief speech, hundreds swarmed the candidate and a scuffle broke out when a woman tried to make off with a haul of free campaign merchandise.

When it was clear they were not going to let him leave the stadium easily, Jokowi stood on the sill of his car door and waved – one more photo for the people.