Indonesian presidential hopeful prays quick Mecca trip will win votes
The front-runner in Wednesday’s Indonesian presidential election has flown to Mecca on a whirlwind pilgrimage in a last-ditch bid to win voters among the world’s largest Muslim population and put to rest damaging suggestions that he is really a Christian.
Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has seen his huge early lead in polls narrow sharply in what has become Indonesia’s dirtiest and tightest presidential race in the face of a sharp and well-financed campaign by his rival, ex-general Prabowo Subianto.
Some opinion polls show the July 9 race is now too close to call.
The pilgrimage could mean the difference between winning and losing the presidency after a smear campaign suggesting Jokowi was an ethnic-Chinese Christian hurt his popularity.
The suggestion is politically ruinous in a society where more than 90 percent of people are native Indonesians and adhere to Islam. Jokowi is both Muslim and an indigenous Indonesian. [ID:nL4N0P00LA]
That the accusations have stuck is as much a reflection of what many analysts have criticised as a disorganised, stumbling Jokowi campaign as it is of his rival’s skills.
Even members of the Jokowi campaign complain that the main party backing him, Indonesia Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P), has failed to galvanise its millions of supporters in the run-up to the vote.