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Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja
Wednesday, Jun 25, 2014

Asia

High anxiety in Jokowi camp

The Straits Times | Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja | Wednesday, Jun 25, 2014

Indonesian presidential candidate Joko Widowo, popularly known as Jokowi, greeting supporters during a rally in Subang, West Java.

With two weeks left to campaign for the July 9 presidential election, Mr Joko Widodo is rushing to woo as many undecided voters as he can, amid an unrelenting wave of scurrilous attacks on him that has seen his ratings slide and made his campaign team anxious.

The Jakarta governor has had to forgo his trademark walkabouts where he meets residents door-to-door. Instead, he is adjusting his style to get local members of his Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle and coalition partners to help greet residents and talk to crowds at many stops before he himself shows up, often for no more than 20 minutes, before pushing off again.

Mr Joko, commonly known as Jokowi, and his running mate Jusuf Kalla have been on a punishing schedule criss-crossing the country to woo voters as the opinion polls show their opponents Prabowo Subianto and Hatta Rajasa fast closing in on them.

Their lead over their rivals has dropped sharply from a high of over 20 per cent in opinion polls three months ago to 10 per cent in late May. It fell further to 6 per cent to 7 per cent, according to polls out last week.

Mr Teten Masduki, a secretary of the Jokowi-Kalla campaign team, told The Straits Times the main factor for the ratings dip is a relentless spate of "black campaigns" - or false information spread through newspapers, on social media and by word of mouth.

"They do it because it is difficult to find Jokowi's weakness. They just make something up."

Rebutting these smears has become a constant theme in Mr Joko's stump speeches. The smears claim, among other things, that Mr Joko is Christian and his father is an Indonesian-born Chinese businessman from Singapore - both sensitive issues among the Muslim-majority electorate.

They have also made the Jokowi campaign appear reactive.

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