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INDONESIA POLLS: Ardent foot soldiers behind Jokowi the graft-buster

Publication Date : 09-07-2014


If public funding were a gauge, Joko Widodo, or Jokowi, and his running mate Jusuf Kalla would appear headed for victory.

As of yesterday, the Jokowi-Kalla ticket had managed to raise more than 100 billion rupiah (US$8.6 million), mostly from about 59,700 individual donors - and within the space of a month.

But their campaign stops and rallies were chaotic and lacking in coordination, reflecting what has essentially been a volunteer-driven movement.

There were few party flags or banners at Joko's rallies, in spite of the fact he is a cadre of the Indonesian Democratic Party - Struggle (PDI-P) that won the most votes in the April general election.

Instead, groups of supporters have sprung up, with some focusing on Joko's down-to-earth manner that connects well with ordinary people and others highlighting his plans for the country to middle-class voters.

Volunteers like Farina Situmorang, 32, see this as a strength.

"It is so decentralised. The downside is we don't have a solid and strong message, but on the other hand the diversity shows that there are so many who love Jokowi and are willing to take time and effort to see change," she told The Straits Times

Farina, a strategist at a marketing consultancy, has been a campaign volunteer over the past month and helped start Joko's Facebook account.

Within a month, it has garnered more than 3.5 million likes, the fastest growth for a politician.

The 20-strong team she leads focuses on social media and has gathered an active online community of some 100,000 who regularly spread campaign messages and material.

PDI-P deputy secretary-general Hasto Kristiyanto said the party's low-key role at campaign rallies was aimed at blending in and drawing as much support as possible for Joko, including from people who may not like his party.

But volunteers accept that the lack of party support for Joko has partly to do with his refusal to follow the usual script on how politics is played in Indonesia.

He has refused to cut deals with people in exchange for their support.

Fajar, 35, a finance professional, said: "If you are a businessman, you spend 1 billion rupiah ($85,690), you expect you would get it back plus, say, a 50 per cent profit margin. With Jokowi, this is not going to happen."

He added: "This is what makes the contest a battle between people and institutions."

The volunteers are quick to add that this is all part of Joko's aim to fight graft and clean up the bureaucracy, and a key reason why they are going all out to make sure he wins.

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