In late June the two candidates in Indonesia’s presidential race both held rallies in Jakarta, the capital. Supporters of Joko Widodo, known to all as Jokowi (pictured right), walked and cycled through the central business district. From a stage set up at a roundabout, Jokowi thanked his supporters in a brief, rather flat speech. Prabowo Subianto held his rally at Bung Karno stadium, which seats more than 80,000. Trumpeters and drummers heralded his arrival in a white convertible. He was flanked by his running mate, Hatta Rajasa, and by leaders of the parties in his coalition—all wearing identical white shirts. The rally did not quite reach the theatrical heights of an event back in March, where he arrived by helicopter and pranced astride a bay charger. But he delivered a fiery speech, and was carried off on the shoulders of cheering supporters. Vulgar showmanship, no doubt. But Mr Prabowo has run a devastating campaign against Jokowi, clawing his way back in opinion polls from a 39-point deficit. The election, which will be held on July 9th, is too close to call. On June 30th Jokowi was polling at 46% of the votes and Mr Prabowo at 42.6%.
Jokowi is an unusual politician. A mediocre orator, his appeal rests on his humble roots as a furniture seller, his can-do pragmatism and a reputation unsullied by corruption. He has no great fortune, and, unlike many of those born into political influence, was not educated abroad.
With a cupboard free of skeletons, he built a name for effective governance, first as mayor of the mid-sized Javanese city of Solo and then as governor of Jakarta. He was good at the unsexy problems of dredging canals, collecting rubbish and providing health care—life-improving things that ordinary people notice. He made a point of walking through neighbourhoods and listening to constituents—a rarity in Indonesia. He is often compared to Barack Obama for the way he energised voters—even before he officially launched his campaign.
Full Article: Indonesia’s election: Knife’s edge | The Economist.