Jokowi's final campaign rally in Indonesian polls turns into huge free concert to unify voters

Indonesia's President and presidential candidate for the next election Joko Widodo and his running mate Ma'ruf Amin gesture as they greet their supporters at a carnival during a campaign rally in Tangerang, Banten province, on April 7, 2019. PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA - Incumbent President Joko Widodo's final campaign rally on Saturday (April 13) is not going to be a plain vanilla event, as it has been happily "hijacked" by rock stars, a noted music conductor, comedians and other artists and turned into a free concert.

Saturday is the last day of the seven-month campaign period ahead of the April 17 presidential polls, where Mr Joko is seeking re-election, squaring off against his only rival, former army general Prabowo Subianto.

Two hours before the concert starts at 3pm Singapore time, the 77,193-seat Gelora Bung Karno stadium had reached full capacity, with thousands more supporters outside.

Popular rock band Slank's drummer Bimbim said the concert is meant to reach out to those who are still in doubt who to vote for.

"We hope they come to the concert and their doubt is gone after seeing how big the support is for Jokowi and that they come from all walks of life," said Mr Bimbim, one of the organisers of Saturday's event, referring to Mr Joko's popular moniker.

Another rock star Abdee Negara told reporters that Mr Joko's chief campaign manager Erick Thohir has given up on his plan to hold the political campaign rally at the stadium and left it entirely to the music celebrities and other artists to organise a concert instead, with Mr Joko invited to give speech towards the end of the event.

Mr Joko is also slated to attend the final presidential debate, which is being held in the evening at a nearby hotel.

Mr Abdee, who managed to gather the support of more than 400 celebrities and more than 1,000 community leaders to organise the event, said the gathering is called the "United White Concert - Towards Victory, Indonesia Forward".

"Everyone is welcome to come, including politicians, members of political parties that support Jokowi, but with conditions: they have to leave behind their party flags, attributes and just wear white shirts," said Mr Abdee.

Comedian-turned-movie actor Satriaddin Muchdar said: "Mr Joko is a leader who cares so much about us in the East, the least developed part of Indonesia."

"When I left my home town in Kupang (West Timor), there was no cinema. Back then people didn't trust me when I said I was a movie actor, because there was no cinema," said Mr Satriaddin, who uses Curley Arie as his stage name.

"Since two years ago, we have had cinemas, in my home town and in the surrounding towns," he added, pointing out that the current administration is committed to equal economic development across Indonesia.

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