Indonesia elections: Golkar turns up the heat with dangdut

Women dressed in yellow leaving the site of a Golkar rally in Depok on March 21, 2014. -- PHOTO: Raj Nadarajan
Women dressed in yellow leaving the site of a Golkar rally in Depok on March 21, 2014. -- PHOTO: Raj Nadarajan
Indonesian Presidential aspirant Aburizal Bakri, who is the chairman of the Golkar Party, arriving at at a party rally in Depok on March 21, 2014.  -- PHOTO: Raj Nadarajan
Indonesian Presidential aspirant Aburizal Bakri, who is the chairman of the Golkar Party, arriving at at a party rally in Depok on March 21, 2014.  -- PHOTO: Raj Nadarajan
A boy stands out in a sea of flags, waving a T-shirt as the crowd enjoys the Dangdut music, at a Golkar rally in Depok on March 21, 2014.  -- PHOTO: Raj Nadarajan
A boy stands out in a sea of flags, waving a T-shirt as the crowd enjoys the Dangdut music, at a Golkar rally in Depok on March 21, 2014.  -- PHOTO: Raj Nadarajan
At the Golkar rally in Depok on March 21, 2014, the dangdut performers took turns to entertain the crowd. The poltical candidates made their appearances on the stage in pauses between the music. -- PHOTO: Raj Nadarajan
At the Golkar rally in Depok on March 21, 2014, the dangdut performers took turns to entertain the crowd. The poltical candidates made their appearances on the stage in pauses between the music. -- PHOTO: Raj Nadarajan
A dangdut performer gyrating to the music at a Golkar rally in Depok, an hour out of Jakarta, on March 21, 2014. The dangdut style of music which blends in Indian, Malay and Arabic elements is very popular in Indonesia and helps pull large crowds to
A dangdut performer gyrating to the music at a Golkar rally in Depok, an hour out of Jakarta, on March 21, 2014. The dangdut style of music which blends in Indian, Malay and Arabic elements is very popular in Indonesia and helps pull large crowds to rallies. -- PHOTO: Raj Nadarajan

IN DEPOK (Indonesia) - The girl with long eyelashes and a black mini skirt asks: “Tired already? Do you want to dance some more?”

The answer is a solid “Yes!” from thousands of voices below the high stage where she stands.

The band starts up the loud, pulsating dangdut music. The sea of young men, aunties in tudung and women in tight jeans join in, enjoying the popular music which blends Indian, Malay and Arabic styles.

Stand too close to the stage and you risk your eardrums.

It is that loud.

Welcome to a political rally, Indonesia style.

The nation with the world’s largest Muslim population will hold a general election on April 9 to pick representatives for the national parliament, along with provincial and district legislative assemblies. These elections are held every five years.

Friday’s rally, held in an open field in Depok which is an hour’s drive to the southwest of Jakarta, was organised by Golkar. It was Indonesia's biggest party under former president Suharto, but is today part of the ruling coalition led by the Democratic Party led by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

The party’s colours are bright yellow and feature a banyan tree. Accordingly, the three dangdut girls, who took turns to entertain the 2,000-strong crowd, wore yellow blouses.

The crowd was all decked in yellow too, including a man who had painted his hair and his naked torso yellow.

They waved large, yellow Golkar flags as they danced. The party workers dished out water bottles to ensure everyone stayed well-hydrated and enthusiastic dancing under the hot sun.

Interspersed with the music, the local Golkar candidates were introduced.

And then a man appeared on stage to sing and dance to a Golkar song, also to the catchy dangdut beat.

“So let us together struggle. Because the voice of Golkar is the voice of the people!” went the chorus.

The crowd roared.

And then the leader they had all been waiting for arrived.

No ordinary entrance, please, for telecommunications-to-coal-to-property tycoon, Mr Aburizal Bakrie, the party chairman.

A private helicopter buzzed ahead to roars of approval from the faithful masses.

The helicopter circled the open field three times, with hundreds of name cards of the local candidates strewn down.

Mr Bakrie, a presidential aspirant, came in a large luxury brown Volkswagen MPV.

The dangdut stopped, and a group of women sang a famous Arabic welcoming song.

On stage, the masters of ceremony asked everyone to recite the Islamic verses.

And then, finally, Mr Bakrie spoke.

He reminded them how Indonesia’s economy grew under Golkar, and promised free education and improved health care for everyone.

“Golkar has experience in leading Indonesia for 32 years. Were those good or bad years?"

The crowd shouted in one voice “Good!”

Speech over in 20 minutes, he was mobbed as he walked over a carpet laid on the muddy field back to his MPV.

And then the masters of ceremony said: “Let us loosen our muscles again.”

The dangdut girls and the live band came back, and more vigorous dancing ensued for the next half hour.

reme@sph.com.sg