Volunteers go the extra mile for support
Sita W. Dewi and Hasyim Widhiarto
The Jakarta Post
With less than a fortnight before the presidential election, the candidates are relying heavily on campaign volunteers' 'direct' interactions with voters to win support on election day.
Thirty-year-old Marina Kusumawardhani, for example, in March decided to fly thousands of miles from her base in Vienna, Austria, to Jakarta, to help the presidential campaign of non-active Jakarta governor Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo, who is famous for his blusukan (impromptu visits).
'When I heard about Pak Jokowi's nomination, I felt I needed to help his campaign. I didn't want someone affiliated with the New Order regime to assume power,' Marina, who used to work for the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) in Vienna, told The Jakarta Post recently, referring to Jokowi's rival Prabowo Subianto, an influential Army lieutenant general during president Suharto's era.
From June 4 to July 5, the candidates actively across the country can campaign to lure voters ahead of the July 9 election.
Working alongside many others from various professional backgrounds, Marina is heading up the website generasioptimis.org (optimistic generation), which features Jokowi-Kalla campaign material including a video game, interactive video, animation, comic strips and smartphone applications.
'Our videos have been watched 300,000 times and within only two days, our game 'Jokowi Go!' had been downloaded by 8,000 users. I believe it has been downloaded tens of thousands of times now!' she said.
Marina went on to say that more than 16,000 people had signed up as campaign volunteers for the Jokowi-Kalla ticket through the website.
Indonesia Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) deputy secretary-general Eriko Sotarduga claimed that more than one million volunteers were supporting the Jokowi-Kalla campaign. Filmmaker Joko Anwar, who has been intensively tweeting about Jokowi, is one of them.
Joko, who has more than 600,000 followers on Twitter, said the significant number of potential abstainers had motivated him to publicly announce his political preference.
'This [year's] election is crucial, we can feel it. Let's take part in democracy. Being an abstainer is not cool anymore,' he said on his Twitter account @jokoanwar.
Many recent polls have suggested that the July 9 presidential election will be an extremely tight race with the gap between Prabowo and Jokowi tightening to between 3 and 7 percent.
Earlier this year, the majority of pollsters found Jokowi to be the strongest contender as he was leading with a double-digit margin.
Prabowo's camp, which launched a sizeable social media campaign months before the presidential election, has also deployed volunteers to launch its 'land attack' and maintain the Gerindra chief patron's popularity ahead of election day.
The leader of Prabowo-Hatta's Sahabat dan Relawan (Friends and Volunteers) organization, Bram Bani, said his organization had deployed hundreds of thousands of volunteers to disseminate the pair's campaign programs.
'We are especially targeting low-income voters, like traditional market vendors and people living in poorer neighborhoods,' he said.
A volunteer for the Prabowo-Hatta ticket, Irpan Ripai Nasution, from South Labuhanbatu, North Sumatra, said he had eaten breakfast at different establishments every day to campaign for the pair.
'While I enjoy my breakfast, I usually try to assess the views of the owners and the visitors regarding the presidential election,' the 27-year-old said.
An advisor for the Prabowo-Hatta campaign team, Djoko Santoso, said direct campaign approaches, like public gatherings, door-to-door campaigns and free medical services, were crucial to increasing the pair's chance of winning the presidential race.
'Today, development in the race is already monitored hour by hour, we cannot just sit and relax,' he said.
' Hans Nicolas Jong also contributed to this story
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