Prabowo woos voters in Jokowi stronghold of Solo

Mr Prabowo Subianto greeting supporters during a campaign rally in Solo, in Central Java province, yesterday. In the 2014 presidential race, incumbent President Joko Widodo clinched 66.65 per cent of the votes in Central Java, compared with Mr Prabow
Mr Prabowo Subianto greeting supporters during a campaign rally in Solo, in Central Java province, yesterday. In the 2014 presidential race, incumbent President Joko Widodo clinched 66.65 per cent of the votes in Central Java, compared with Mr Prabowo's 33.35 per cent. PHOTO: REUTERS
Supporters of President Joko Widodo and his running mate Ma'ruf Amin at a carnival parade in Tangerang Banten on Sunday. Today, Mr Joko will be in Jakarta to prepare for his final election debate. Time
Supporters of President Joko Widodo and his running mate Ma'ruf Amin at a carnival parade in Tangerang Banten on Sunday. Today, Mr Joko will be in Jakarta to prepare for his final election debate. TimeST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR
Supporters of the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) at Mr Prabowo Subianto's rally in Solo, Central Java. According to a survey, the PKS is the only Muslim party likely to secure enough seats to join the House.
Supporters of the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) at Mr Prabowo Subianto's rally in Solo, Central Java. According to a survey, the PKS is the only Muslim party likely to secure enough seats to join the House. ST PHOTS: ARIFFIN JAMAR

He pledges to cut electricity tariffs, build more factories and stop unnecessary imports

A day after President Joko Widodo returned to his hometown of Solo in Central Java, invoking his ties to the city to endear himself to voters, it was his rival Prabowo Subianto's turn to come knocking in a final push to gain ground in the province.

In a fiery rally at Stadium Sriwedari yesterday, Mr Prabowo called for the crowd to vote in a new head of state and set a stumbling nation back on the path to progress.

"The Indonesian people already understand what is happening in this country. You already get that this country is in a state of confusion," said Mr Prabowo.

"You don't want to be headed in the wrong direction any more; this path uses our national wealth to enrich a select few, a group that will allow our riches to be carried away abroad... We must change course, and get back on the right path."

In an election which has seen anxieties over job opportunities and rising costs, Mr Prabowo declared once more that his team could help alleviate the pain. He told the crowd he had experts who could offer concrete solutions to the problems faced by Indonesians.

His team, he said, told him that electricity tariffs and the price of daily necessities such as meat could be reduced in his first 100 days in office, if he were elected.

Fertiliser would be distributed to farmers and unnecessary imports stopped, added Mr Prabowo, who has said that an over-reliance on food imports has driven prices up.

  • Heading into the final stretch

  • ISLAMIC PARTIES STRUGGLING

    • Islamic political parties are struggling to meet the 4 per cent electoral threshold required at the April 17 legislative elections for its members to enter Parliament, The Jakarta Post reported yesterday.

    • According to a survey by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Jakarta, the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) is the only Muslim party likely to secure enough seats to join the House.

    • The PKS is part of a five-party coalition behind presidential hopeful Prabowo Subianto. CSIS analyst Arya Fernandes told The Jakarta Post that Islamic parties are usually more successful in garnering public acceptance when they put aside religion and offer solutions to more pressing bread-and-butter issues, as opposed to those focusing on identity politics.

    • "The PKS managed to become a mid-tier party in 2004 because it offered fresh ideas about clean governance and the introduction of professional Cabinet ministers," added Mr Arya.

    ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL

    • Today, President Joko Widodo will be in Jakarta to prepare for his final election debate with Mr Prabowo on Saturday.• The former army general will be at a campaign event in Surabaya, East Java, tomorrow, where he may reveal the names of those being considered for Cabinet positions, if he scores an upset victory at the polls next week.

    WHAT DO SURVEYS SHOW?

    • Jakarta-based research and consulting firm Voxpol Centre said on Tuesday that 48.8 per cent of 1,600 respondents in a survey it conducted from March 18 to April 1 support Mr Joko. Mr Prabowo scored 43.3 per cent, while almost 8 per cent said they were still undecided.

In a jibe at Mr Joko - who on the campaign trail has been pushing plans to roll out cards that will, among other things, give job seekers the chance to upskill - Mr Prabowo said: "The Indonesian government must be a government that looks after its people. Cards? That can wait."

Reiterating a key narrative of his campaign - that Indonesia is a country of abundant riches which must be steered by leaders who can help it reach its full potential - he also pledged to set up hundreds of new factories.

"We want to have Indonesian-made cars that are truly made in Indonesia... Motorbikes really made in Indonesia," he said. "We have built our own airplanes in the past, and we will build them again. We will build our own ships to help our fishermen."

In the 2014 presidential race, Mr Joko clinched 66.65 per cent of the votes in Central Java to Mr Prabowo's 33.35 per cent.

And in Solo itself, where he began his political career as mayor in 2005, Mr Joko won 84 per cent of the votes.

On Tuesday, Mr Joko, popularly known as Jokowi, called on attendees at his rally to extend his lead, aiming for at least 70 per cent of votes in the province.

Solo holds political magnetism for his opponent. Observers say if Mr Prabowo manages to win over voters in Mr Joko's stronghold, it could shake the President's dominance in other parts of Central Java too.

Mr Joko's campaign team, however, is confident its candidate still has an iron grip on the province - especially in Solo. "Solo has always been a red area, the area of the PDI-P," said the team's deputy chairman Arsul Sani, referring to the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, one of the parties in the coalition supporting Mr Joko.

No party - including the Islamic parties - has been able to shake the PDI-P's dominance, he added.

Nonetheless, Mr Prabowo has expressed optimism, saying citizens have shown that many Indonesians are hungry to see a new leader at the helm.

"This time around, the people have risen... In Solo here today, we can see that the people in Central Java want change as well," he told a cheering crowd.

"We are right now on the verge of victory, but we cannot be over-confident... We must be on our guard."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 11, 2019, with the headline 'Prabowo woos voters in Jokowi stronghold of Solo'. Print Edition | Subscribe