FaithWorld

Indonesian presidential hopeful prays quick Mecca trip will win votes

By Reuters Staff
July 7, 2014
(Indonesian presidential candidate Joko "Jokowi" Widodo runs on the stage after delivering a speech in front of his supporters at Gelora Bung Karno stadium in Jakarta July 5, 2014. The closest and dirtiest presidential race in Indonesia's young democracy could be decided on Wednesday among the mosques and rice paddies of West Java, the nation's most populous province. Former special forces chief Prabowo Subianto and Jakarta Governor Joko "Jokowi" Widodo are running neck-and-neck in opinion polls, leaving markets in Southeast Asia's largest economy under pressure and on tenterhooks awaiting the outcome. Picture taken July 5, 2014. REUTERS/Darren Whiteside )

(Indonesian presidential candidate Joko “Jokowi” Widodo runs on the stage after delivering a speech in front of his supporters at Gelora Bung Karno stadium in Jakarta July 5, 2014. REUTERS/Darren Whiteside )

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.

Read the full story by Kanupriya Kapoor here.

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