Rock stars turn Jokowi’s final campaign rally into a free concert

Incumbent President Joko Widodo’s final campaign rally yesterday was not a plain vanilla event, it was “hijacked” by rock stars, a music conductor, comedians and others who turned it into a free concert.

Yesterday was the last official day of campaigning for Wednesday’s presidential polls, in which Mr Joko, who is seeking re-election for a second term in office, is squaring off against his only rival, former army general Prabowo Subianto.

Both men have been campaigning for the past seven months in the contest, which is a rerun of the 2014 polls.

Two hours before the rally started at 2pm local time, the 77,193-seat Gelora Bung Karno Stadium had reached full capacity, with thousands more of Mr Joko’s supporters camped outside.

Popular rock band Slank’s drummer, Mr Bimo Setiawan Almachzumi, said the concert was meant to reach out to undecided voters.

“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,” Mr Bimo said prior to the event, referring to Mr Joko’s popular moniker. The musician was one of the organisers.

Another rock star, Mr Abdee Negara, told reporters that Mr Joko’s chief campaign manager, Mr Erick Thohir, had given up on his plan to hold a political campaign rally at the stadium and left it entirely to the musicians and other performers to organise a concert instead.

The show was dubbed the United White Concert – Towards Victory, Indonesia Forward, said Mr Abdee, who managed to gather more than 400 celebrities and more than 1,000 community leaders to organise the event.

“Everyone is welcome to come, including politicians and 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.

Mr Joko, who was scheduled to attend the final presidential debate at a nearby hotel in the evening, made a dramatic entry onstage at the height of the concert.

He ran onto a platform shaped like the number one, which protruded from the stage, with both hands held high as the crowd cheered loudly.

Before launching into his campaign speech, Mr Joko asked “how are you?” in at least seven different languages spoken across the archipelago, from Java to Bali and North Sumatra to Papua.

In his speech, the President spoke about the need to maintain peace and harmony among all ethnic groups and touted his infrastructure-building programme for the vast country.

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“Every advanced country in the world has good infrastructure,” he said.