Jokowi Makes Final Push for Votes as Prabowo Closes In

Indonesian presidential hopeful Joko Widodo sought to reinvigorate his campaign with promises to create 10 million jobs and give land to families, as his lead over opponent Prabowo Subianto disappears days before the vote.

Widodo, known as Jokowi, released another policy document today that pledges to create 10 million jobs over five years and give land ownership to the heads of 4.5 million families. He also plans to give 1 million rupiah ($84) each month to poor families as a subsidy if economic growth exceeds 7 percent.

The Jakarta governor has seen his commanding lead dwindle in a race that survey company Roy Morgan now says is “too close to call,” prompting investors to brace for a market selloff should Prabowo win the July 9 election on a nationalistic and debt-funded agenda. The last-ditch effort to woo voters shows Jokowi increasing a populist tone as he emulates Prabowo’s playbook.

“This is the last strategy from Joko Widodo before the campaign period ends this week,” said Lana Soelistianingsih, chief economist at PT Samuel Sekuritas Indonesia in Jakarta. “It’s similar to the program of Prabowo Subianto, which is very populist and difficult to implement” because of budget constraints, she said.

Jokowi’s pledges today are at least the third time he has produced a policy document since announcing in March he would stand in the presidential election. He held the briefing in Bandung in West Java, where Prabowo and his running mate have strong support, said Soelistianingsih.

Faltering Campaign

Jokowi’s man-of-the-people image that propelled him to the top job in the capital is proving less effective in the face of an organized Prabowo campaign that has cast its candidate as a strong leader and forged political alliances to deliver votes. Jokowi has also adopted an increasingly protectionist tint as the race tightened.

His late entrance to the race, after being nominated in March as the candidate of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, or PDI-P, has hobbled his campaign as he rushed to formulate a policy platform and had to rely on volunteers. When the campaign published its policy manifesto, which was uploaded May 20 on the election commission website, it was 41 pages long and the PDI-P said it planned a new version after the first one was criticized for errors.

By contrast, Prabowo has a similar campaign team to the one in 2009 when he ran for vice president. His manifesto was more accessible, with easy-to-read bullet points.

Handouts Pledged

In today’s policy document, Jokowi also promised to raise the salaries of civil servants, armed services and police gradually over five years. He plans to allocate an average of 1.4 billion rupiah for each village under a special assistance program, and to create 1 million hectares of agricultural land outside Java.

A Roy Morgan poll in June showed 52 percent support for Jokowi and 48 percent for Prabowo. The poll, which had a margin of error of 1.8 percent, showed the race narrowing from a May survey that had 42 percent of voters favoring Jokowi and 24 percent choosing Prabowo.

Projections that a Jokowi victory would cut red tape and corruption helped send the Jakarta index into a bull market in March. Since then, Prabowo’s rise in the polls has worried international investors because of plans to raise debt levels and renegotiate contracts with foreign companies to get better terms for the state.

Cabinet Professionals

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s current government has sought to revise the terms of contracts with foreign miners. Prabowo has been clear about his intentions to continue such talks, Sandiaga Uno, Prabowo’s spokesman for business and economy, said in an interview today.

Prabowo will maintain a budget deficit of less than 3 percent of gross domestic product and he will pick technocrats or professionals for key cabinet posts such as finance minister and economy minister, Uno said. Investors’ confidence will return when they see the government is decisive and able to build infrastructure and push forward reforms, he said.

“They’ll come back,” said Uno. “Indonesia is open to business.”

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