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

CIAMIS (West Java) – It was an arrival befitting a celebrity.

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

As the helicopter hovered over an open field, 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 general as he made another stop on his campaign to be the next president in the election on April 17.

Hundreds of adults and students, 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 town for a rally.

A laid-back territory with about 1.4 million residents, which shares a border with Central Java, clearly is a special place for Mr Prabowo. He has said he expects no less than 90 per cent of voters in the area to support him in line with other parts of West Java province – his traditional stronghold with more than 33.3 million votes up for grabs – as he seeks an upset win over incumbent President Joko Widodo in the forthcoming poll.

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

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

During the rally, which kicked off at around 10.30am, Mr Prabowo promised, if elected, to cut electricity costs within his first 100 days in office, 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 retired army general also told his supporters that to meet his goals he needed to eradicate corruption in the bureaucracy, which, quoting data from Indonesia’ Corruption Eradication Commission, he said has resulted in 2,000 trillion rupiah (S$208.2 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 his youth supporter group Indonesian Millennial Movement and a local breeder, were handing donations to Mr Prabowo.

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.

“We can make a big impact, I am convinced, like Singapore. Lee Kuan Yew didn’t stand any graft and corruption. But their ministers are the highest paid in the world,” he said.

With less than two weeks to go before the polls, Mr Prabowo and his running mate, former deputy governor of Jakarta, Mr Sandiaga Uno, has made some inroads in opinion polls although most surveys still show that Mr Joko, who has chosen cleric Ma’ruf Amin as his running mate, will be re-elected.

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