Indonesian presidential candidate Prabowo campaigns in West Java, seeking 90 per cent support in Ciamis

Indonesian presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto speaking at a campaign rally in West Java's Ciamis regency, on April 5, 2019.
Indonesian presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto speaking at a campaign rally in West Java's Ciamis regency, on April 5, 2019.PHOTO: LINDA YULISMAN

CIAMIS (West Java) - It was an arrival befitting a king.

A crowd had gathered on Saturday (April 6) as the helicopter carrying presidential hopeful Prabowo Subianto started its descent towards Ciamis, a regency in West Java province.

As the helicopter hovered over an open field to land, people had to be held back and told to wait until its rotors came to a stop on the ground.

They were anxious to rush forward to greet the former army general as he made another stop on his campaign to be the next president at the April 17 election.

Hundreds of supporters, including students, some clad in brown boy scout uniforms, reached out to touch the candidate’s hands when they saw him, while chanting in unison, “Prabowo, Prabowo!”

Other enthusiastic supporters were also waiting on the streets to just wave or take pictures as Mr Prabowo made his way to Lokasana field in Ciamis for a rally. 

The laid-back town with about 1.4 million residents, which shares a border with Central Java, is clearly a special place for Mr Prabowo.

He said on Saturday that he expects no less than 90 per cent of voters in the area to support him, which is in line with the support he attracts in other parts of West Java.

 Supporters of presidential hopeful Prabowo Subianto turned out in force to hear him speak at a rally on April 5, 2019. PHOTO: LINDA YULISMAN

The province, with more than 33.3 million voters, is his traditional stronghold, and where he hopes to do well as he seeks an upset win over incumbent President Joko Widodo and his running-mate Ma’ruf Amin at the upcoming polls.

“Please set up a communal kitchen (on the polling day). Mothers, please make rice snacks, coffee and tea. We will celebrate April 17 as the day of the people’s victory, the day of Indonesian people’s awakening,” he said in a speech to around 20,000 people who braved the scorching sun to see him.

During the rally, which kicked off at around 10.30am on Saturday, Mr Prabowo promised, if elected, to cut electricity costs within his first 100 days in office, and to lift the wages of civil servants and build factories for made-in-Indonesia cars to create jobs in the longer term.


"I will pick the best sons and daughters of Indonesia. We will build hundreds of new factories in Indonesia. We will produce made-in-Indonesia cars,” he said.

But, the 67-year-old also told his supporters that to meet his goals, he will need to eradicate corruption in the bureaucracy, which, quoting data from Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Commission, he said, has resulted in 2,000 trillion rupiah (S$192 billion) in potential state losses annually.

“I swear to you that I will not seek advantages of my own or my family from this (presidential) post. My aspiration is to establish an anti-corruption government, a government without corrupt officials,” Mr Prabowo said.

He added: “I will call the future ministers, interview them one by one, and will require them to sign contracts to ensure they will not accumulate wealth for themselves, their families and friends for five years of their tenure.”

On the sidelines of the rally, some people, including a representative from the Indonesian Millennial Movement, were on hand to deliver donations to Mr Prabowo to support his election campaign.

On the return flight to Jakarta from West Java, Mr Prabowo told The Straits Times that one way to eradicate corruption was for the central government to have a tighter rein on the state budget and to raise the salaries of high-profile officials, such as ministers and judges.

He cited Singapore as an example of clean government, saying that its success in tackling graft was correlated to ensuring its top officials were well compensated.

“I’m convinced we can make a big impact, just like in Singapore where Lee Kuan Yew didn’t tolerate any corruption, and where their ministers are the highest paid in the world,” he added.

Although most electability surveys show Mr Joko poised to win a second term in office, Mr Prabowo and his running-mate Sandiaga Uno have managed to close the gap between them and the President with just 10 days to go before polls open.