SURABAYA, Indonesia: The crowd erupted in applause and cheers as soon as they spot presidential candidate number two Prabowo Subianto emerge from his car outside the Dyandra Convention Centre after Friday prayers.
Mobile phones in hand, they pushed and pulled each other to snap selfies with the strongman, who was all smiles as he greeted a throng of excited supporters. Many of them had been waiting for hours to listen to his speech that would wrap up his final campaign for the presidential election, slated for next week.
The ex-military nationalist is popular among conservative Islamic groups. Yet, in his last campaign speech on Friday (Apr 12), he highlighted the inclusiveness and pluralism of his team and fended off accusations that his political camp aspires to transform the multicultural nation into a caliphate.
"As a presidential candidate, I’m supported by coalition parties and religious leaders. Many of them support me, not just Muslim but also Christian – 300 priests. My team also consists of Hindus and Christians," he told a packed crowd of supporters.
On Apr 17, Prabowo will fight for the presidency against his old rival and incumbent President Joko Widodo – Jokowi.
In the previous election in 2014, the ex-general lost to the current leader by a margin of 6 per cent. This time, he has returned to the battleground with criticisms about the Jokowi government and their performance over the past five years, as well as a nationalist rhetoric focusing on the economy and jobs creation.
"Indonesia’s wealth has been flowing out to other countries. It hasn’t remained within. This is our key challenge. The next government must stop it," he said.
"The next challenge is inequality in Indonesia – the unfairness. Some people dominate most Indonesians’ wealth. This is very unfair and we want to solve it."
READ: Standing up to be counted: The millennial election candidates looking to shake up Indonesian politics
During his Friday speech, Prabowo also stressed on what he called the "big challenges" for Indonesia, including climate change, food security and population growth.
"We’re facing climate change. It’s an urgent issue but the elites in Jakarta don’t seem to think about it," he said, citing rising sea levels and a risk for the capital, Surabaya and areas east of Java Island to be submerged in the future.
"This is not a hoax but a challenge we’re facing."
Prabowo also mentioned his team's aspiration to enable a double-digit GDP growth instead of the 5 per cent increase last year, saying Indonesia should not follow behind other countries.
"We should be optimistic," he said. "Whatever the people decide must be respected."