Presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto speaking to supporters during a mass meeting at Gelora Bung Karno Stadium in Jakarta on Sunday. (Antara Photo/Hafidz Mubarak A)

Prabowo Feeds Voters Nativist Themes, Promises; Jokowi Keeps Highlighting Own Achievements

BY : TELLY NATHALIA & YUSTINUS PAAT

APRIL 08, 2019

Jakarta. As Indonesia approaches the April 17 election, the presidential hopefuls intensified their campaigns by luring constituents with promises and solutions to the country's myriad of problems.

In a show of force, former Army general Prabowo Subianto and his running mate Sandiaga Uno – the only pair challenging the incumbent, Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and his running mate Ma'ruf Amin – held a mass rally at Gelora Bung Karno Stadium in Jakarta on Sunday.

The rally, which started with a mass prayer at dawn, enlivened by enthusiastic supporters who had been arriving at the stadium since midnight from across Jakarta and its satellite cities.

Prabowo, who served under former President Suharto's regime, fed the crowd with nativist and nationalistic themes, portraying himself as a leader capable of coming up with solutions for Indonesians who feel insecure both about their daily lives and the nation's place in the world.

He repeated a promise to ensure a government free from corruption. He also touched on the issues of protecting Indonesia's wealth, job creation and poverty reduction.

"The people want to see changes. People want improvement in their welfare. The people don't want to get tricked anymore. God willing, we will win. We look forward to the change we expect," the 68-year-old presidential hopeful, wearing a peci hat, safari jacket and sunglasses – the trademark of Sukarno, the country's charismatic first president.

The son-in-law of the country's second president said Indonesians no longer have the patience to wait for change. "Too much corruption in this country," he said, repeating a previous statement: "Corruption in Indonesia is already a disease and this disease is already at stage four."

"I witness; I promise; I swear; by God's grace, [if] we accept a mandate [from the people], we are going to create a clean government, as clean as possible," said the former commander of the Army Strategic Reserve Command (Kostrad), which Suharto commanded in 1965.

Message to Jokowi's Camp: Don't Celebrate Too Soon

Citizens across the archipelago will exercise their right to choose a new president, vice president, lawmakers and members of regional legislative councils on the same day, the first time ever these elections are held simultaneously in the country of about 260 million people.

Although dozens of opinion polls put Jokowi in the lead by a double-digit margin, some analysts, including Ericssen, a Singapore-based independent political analyst who specializes in electoral politics, American politics and Indonesian politics – said Prabowo could still find a way to beat the incumbent.

"We have made our own calculations. We have our own accurate sources, who last time predicted [election results in] Greater Jakarta, West Java and Central Java. They were proven accurate!" said Prabowo, the former husband of Suharto's daughter, Titik.

The Prabowo camp claimed that more than a million people attended Sunday's rally in Jakarta, despite the stadium only has a seating capacity of 150,000.

Supporters of Prabowo Subianto and businessman Sandiaga Uno seen in a packed Gelora Bung Karno Stadium in Senayan, Jakarta, on Sunday. (Antara Photo/Galih Pradipta)
Supporters of Prabowo Subianto and businessman Sandiaga Uno seen in a packed Gelora Bung Karno Stadium in Senayan, Jakarta, on Sunday. (Antara Photo/Galih Pradipta)

Support for Pancasila

Prabowo also reiterated comments he made during the fourth presidential debate, saying that he has no plans to do away with the official state ideology of Pancasila – or five basic principles – and introduce an Islamic caliphate, despite support from radical organizations such as the banned Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia, which forms part of an international group seeking to establish a global Islamic caliphate.

Prabowo described these allegations as "cruel libel."

Bachtiar Nasir, a key figure in the now banned organization, made an appearance at the rally, while flags similar to the group's, were displayed.

"Our ulema teaches that Islam in Indonesia is rahmatan lil-alamin [brings mercy to all creation]. Islam that is at peace with all races and ethnic groups," Prabowo said.

In his speech, the presidential candidate also explained that he has gathered some experts to start working on his expected future government's programs. "By God's grace, once we receive a mandate, we can start working," Prabowo said.

Firebrand cleric Rizieq Shihab, leader of the hardline Islamic Defenders Front, or FPI, appeared in the video, delivering a message to the crowd during the rally.

"Why is the Prabowo-Sandi candidate pair welcomed everywhere with enthusiasm? People come without having been paid, without promises of any prizes. That is because Prabowo-Sandi is the pair chosen by the ulema," Rizieq said in the video.

Prabowo added that if he wins the election, he would bring the controversial Muslim leader back to Indonesia from his self-imposed exile. Rizieq fled to Saudi Arabia to avoid arrest in a pornography case. The case has since been dropped due to insufficient evidence, but he has yet to return to Indonesia.

Firebrand cleric Rizieq Shihab, leader of the hardline Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), appears in the video to deliver a message to the crowd during the rally.
Firebrand cleric Rizieq Shihab, leader of the hardline Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), appears in a video to deliver a message to the crowd during the rally

Prabowo Claims Injustice

According to Prabowo, Indonesians can no longer be fooled by the current government's promises.

"People of Indonesia do not want to be fooled anymore. They are sick of corruption and they cannot accept that their rights are being trampled," he said, citing several cases of "injustice," including the jailing of rock star-turned-political activist Ahmad Dhani, whom he claimed was prosecuted for criticizing the current government.

The singer was sentenced to a year in prison for spreading hate speech on social media. He has appealed his conviction in the Supreme Court.

"It's great to have you all present here… It's not for the dawn prayer. I think all of you came here to show your support. Sandi and I have been traveling in Indonesia for almost eight months. We saw, felt and captured the thrill in the hearts of the people of Indonesia. The people of Indonesia now need change," he said.

Prabowo criticized Jokowi, saying that the incumbent proudly considers the development of transportation infrastructure and the reduction of poverty through various cards, such as for health and education, as proof of his government's achievements, and which he wants to continue.

"Dude, we need jobs, not cards," he said. "Please don't hurt the people. There is no power in this world that can compare with the power of the people."

Prabowo went on to paint a grim picture of conditions in the country, saying that it was like "the motherland is being raped, our wealth is being taken." He did not elaborate or give any examples, but promised to change the situation if he is elected as the next president.

Jokowi's Response

President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo takes a selfie with school students in Gorontalo on Friday. (Antara Photo/Adiwinata Solihin)
President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo takes a selfie with school students in Gorontalo on Friday. (Antara Photo/Adiwinata Solihin)

Responding to Prabowo's statement, Jokowi explained that the country has achieved much.

"There should be no talk that the motherland is being raped. It is not true. The truth is the motherland is achieving," he said at an indoor campaign in BSD City in Tangerang, Banten, on Sunday night, citing the success of Indonesian athletes in 2018 Asian Games, Asian Para Games, youth football and more.

He urged his supporters to continue spreading the good news, keep a positive mind and remain optimistic while having the courage to disprove and oppose political hoaxes, false accusations and hate speech.

Prabowo Ally Not Happy

Separately, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, co-founder and chairman of the Democratic Party, criticized the Prabowo-Sandiaga campaign from Singapore on Sunday, saying that it was wrong to combine a political rally with a mass dawn prayer. The Democratic Party forms part of the opposition coalition.

"From my perspective, conducting a grand campaign at Gelora Bung Karno is not common and it does not constitute an inclusive national campaign," he told members of his party in a letter on Saturday.

"Prevent demonstrations, especially shows of force based on identity, whether religion, ethnicity or ideology and avoid polarization associated with political extremism," he said.

In the letter, Yudhoyono also requested senior members of his party to advise the Prabowo camp on how to conduct a more inclusive campaign.

"Our mindset must still be 'all for all'…actually, I don't like it that the people of Indonesia should be divided as 'pro-Pancasila' and 'pro-caliphate,'" said the former president, who expressed concern that polarization brought by political events such as Sunday's rally could lead to "the tragedy of a divided nation."

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