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Jokowi camp riding high on confidence in presidential race

After a week on the road rushing from one end of Java to the other, presidential candidate Joko Widodo brought his month-long campaign to a close before tens of thousands of fans at a concert.

Political strategists and pundits have tipped Wednesday's election as too close to call, but his supporters, from pushcart hawkers to professionals, gathered in the afternoon sun were convinced their man would be victorious, a conviction he shared.

“We stand here not because of a lust for power, but by more legitimizing means,” he told the rapt audience that had packed the soccer field at Jakarta's Gelora Bung Karno Stadium yesterday.

“We are a democracy to listen. We are here to help resolve problems, not create new ones. We are here to give you a sense of peace, not to spark conflict,” he added.

Joko, 53, commonly known as Jokowi, is not known for his oratory. But his people skills and hard work propelled him from a furniture businessman to mayor of Solo, Central Java. As governor of the capital from 2012, he soon became a favorite for the presidency.

His reputation as a man of the people has made him the front runner, albeit by a thin margin, as his opponent Prabowo Subianto has almost caught up with him in opinion polls thanks to a campaign that has involved smears against Joko's faith and belief.

“We have been hit by slander and lies, but we do not fall because we work sincerely for our beloved country,” Joko told the crowd yesterday.

No credible surveys have been published in the past week, but earlier polls have seen Mr. Joko's lead over Prabowo thin to between 3 percentage points and 7 percentage points.

But a spokesman for Joko's campaign, Hasto Kristianto, told a panel discussion yesterday that their latest internal surveys show Mr. Joko and his running mate, former vice-president Jusuf Kalla, getting 56 percent of the votes to 44 percent for their rivals.

Joko himself has said he would not put too much stock in surveys, but told The Straits Times last week that he was “very confident” of his chances.

“This is a contest between the people and the political elite,” he said.

Yesterday, more then 200 artists and well-known personalities took to the stage to pay tribute to Joko, from popular rock band Slank to Olympic medalists Alan Budikusuma and Taufik Hidayat. They all characterized him as a break from politics as usual and genuinely interested in improving Indonesia.

Joko has refused to attack his opponent directly, but yesterday made a veiled reference to Prabowo's authoritarian past and questionable human rights record as well as recent reports of the local authorities intimidating voters to back him.

“We are gathered here as part of a democracy that ensures the participation of all citizens in shaping the nation's future, that respects human rights, that fights for justice and protects diversity and peace,” Joko said. “We reject all forms of intimidation, lies and fraud.”

Joko also appeared to have help from an unexpected quarter, when President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who received Prabowo and his running mate Hatta Rajasa at home late last Friday night, stopped short of endorsing the pair.

Concert-goer Parlin, 48, a party activist from West Java who goes by only one name, said he was confident of a Jokowi win.

“Jokowi is a child of Reformasi, and this is a contest between the past and the future, between authoritarian and democratic leadership,” he said. “Most people don't want to turn back.”

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