7 days to Indonesian elections

Hometown boy Jokowi eyes big win in Solo

ST VIDEO: NUR ASYIQIN MOHAMAD SALLEH
Tapping nostalgia and oozing folksy charm, President Joko Widodo is seeking to remind the crowd of his connection to Solo and emphasising that he can continue to lead the country in progress during a homecoming rally at the Stadium Sriwedari in Solo,
Tapping nostalgia and oozing folksy charm, President Joko Widodo is seeking to remind the crowd of his connection to Solo and emphasising that he can continue to lead the country in progress during a homecoming rally at the Stadium Sriwedari in Solo, Indonesia yesterday.ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

Former mayor of Central Java city calls on residents to stand by him

Fourteen years ago, the city of Solo in Central Java made a mayor out of a furniture businessman who grew up in one of its riverside slums, setting him on a path that would take him to the country's capital, and the presidential palace.

Yesterday, President Joko Widodo, in the final leg of a tough fight to secure a second term in office, returned to Solo for a homecoming rally, calling on his town to stand by him once more at the April 17 election.

Tapping nostalgia and oozing folksy charm, he sought to remind the crowd in a brief speech of his connection to Solo and emphasised that he can continue to lead the country in progress.

"I'm happy to be here in Solo, where I started my career in governance," Mr Joko told the crowd, who broke into cheers at each mention of his ties to the city.

"In Solo in 2014, we had 84 per cent of the votes. But, remember, I'm from Solo. We shouldn't get the same figure now. We must get more. Maybe more than 90 per cent? Can we do that?"

Before he was elected governor of Jakarta in 2012 and Indonesia's head of state two years later, he had made a name for himself as a mayor who helped reinvigorate a city in decline.

Mr Joko, who goes by the popular moniker Jokowi, was elected mayor of Solo in 2005, and then re-elected in 2010 with more than 90 per cent of the vote.

Among other things, he revived the local economy, reduced congestion on the roads, and improved health services and living conditions for the poor.

Mr Joko reminded his audience of his achievements as president, such as instituting toll roads in Central Java that have helped slash travel times, and pushed his plans to help job seekers get training and housewives get subsidised daily necessities.

A supporter of President Joko Widodo in Solo, Central Java, taking a selfie in front of a locally-made Anoa armoured personnel carrier. Indonesian armed forces chief Hadi Tjahjanto said all military personnel will remain neutral during the April 17 e
A supporter of President Joko Widodo in Solo, Central Java, taking a selfie in front of a locally-made Anoa armoured personnel carrier. Indonesian armed forces chief Hadi Tjahjanto said all military personnel will remain neutral during the April 17 elections. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

Urging the crowd to ensure their family and friends voted next Wednesday, he said he hoped to clinch at least 70 per cent of the votes in Central Java this time - up from the 66.65 per cent in 2014.

"This is not the time for rest. It is full steam ahead," he said.

  • Military to remain neutral at polls

  • VOTE BAN FOR TNI REMAINS

    • Indonesian armed forces (TNI) chief Hadi Tjahjanto yesterday reaffirmed that all military personnel will remain neutral at the April 17 legislative and presidential polls.

    • According to the Lowy Institute, Indonesia's military is about 420,000-strong. The TNI and the police, which has about 443,000 officers, are banned from voting, given the country's history of military-led authoritarian rule.

    ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL

    • President Joko Widodo will be back in Jakarta today to prepare for the final election debate with his rival Prabowo Subianto on Saturday. The latter will continue his hustings in Central Java, with only four days of campaigning left before the official "quiet period" begins on Sunday.

    WHAT DO SURVEYS SHOW?

    • Mr Joko and his running mate, Dr Ma'ruf Amin, are more popular among millennial voters than their rivals, according to a survey by IndexPolitica.• Almost half of the young respondents said they would support Mr Joko and Dr Ma'ruf, while 40.24 per cent said they would choose Mr Prabowo and his running-mate, Mr Sandiaga Uno.

    • Separately, 62 per cent of respondents in an internal survey conducted by the Prabowo-Sandiaga campaign team said they would vote for the pair, while only 38 per cent chose Mr Joko and Dr Ma'ruf. •Campaign director Sugiono said the results were from a survey last week involving 1,440 respondents across 34 provinces.

But even with Mr Joko's intimate personal and political ties to the city, victory will not come easy in Solo this time round, with rival Prabowo Subianto working the ground hard as well.

The historic city is a symbolic battleground in the fight for Central Java, a province of more than 34 million that has long been a stronghold for Mr Joko and the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle.

Observers say that if Mr Prabowo manages to win over voters in Solo, this could shake Mr Joko's dominance in other parts of Central Java too.

Jakarta-born Prabowo, who last Sunday held his own massive home town rally in the Indonesian capital, has made no secret of his designs on his opponent's base.

His campaign team set up one of its offices just a few hundred metres away from Mr Joko's home in Solo.

Today, Mr Prabowo will take the stage at the very same stadium Mr Jokowi stood in yesterday.

 
 
 
 

He has his work cut out for him.

Many have pledged to remain loyal to a fellow son of Solo, and believe that Mr Joko helped drive the country forward in his first term as president.

"When he was mayor, he did a lot of good. My mother was a roadside kiosk owner who had to be relocated," said housewife Dewi, 38, who goes by one name. " Instead of bringing in the police to chase them out, he met and talked to the community instead.

"He is still the same way as president as he was as mayor: thinking of the future, wanting to bring progress."

For others, however, the shared connection is not enough.

Mechanic Achmad Fouzy, 54, said: "So what if he is from Solo like me? So what if he did a lot as mayor? Now he is running for president and we must see whether he's done enough in the past five years."

"I don't think he has, so I will give Prabowo a chance," he added.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 10, 2019, with the headline 'Hometown boy Jokowi eyes big win in Solo'. Print Edition | Subscribe