Jokowi tells fans to pick 'white-haired' leader to secure legacy

File picture of then-Central Java gubernatorial candidate Ganjar Pranowo (centre) greeting supportersduring a regional election campaign event in Tegal, Central Java, on June 22, 2018. - Antara

JAKARTA (Bloomberg): Indonesian President Joko Widodo urged his supporters to vote for a "fully white-haired” leader, his most upfront show of support yet for a presidential hopeful.

"Look at the leader’s hair too, if it’s fully white, that means they are thinking about the people,” Jokowi, as the president is popularly known, said to his almost 150,000 supporters gathered at a Saturday rally in Jakarta.

Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo is the only presidential hopeful with a full head of white hair among the most popular contenders for the 2024 elections. Former Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan and Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto round up the top three.

While Baswedan and Prabowo have declared their plans to campaign, Pranowo has kept mum. Presidential candidates need to have the support of parties representing at least 20% of seats in parliament, and the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle or PDIP -- the party backing Pranowo and Jokowi -- has refrained from throwing its support behind anyone. PDIP Chairwoman Megawati Sukarnoputri is widely seen as expecting her daughter to be the party’s candidate despite her low popularity. PDIP has 22% of seats.

In the lively rally in central Jakarta, Jokowi also called on his supporters to pick a leader who understands the people’s plight.

"This is a big country, don’t get a leader who just sits pretty in the presidential palace. Find, I remind you, find a leader who wants and loves to go down among the people,” he said.

Almost all of the presidential hopefuls have adopted the "blusukan” or walking-among-people style of campaigning that propelled Jokowi to the top job. But the continuity of his policies remains at stake as he nears the end of his second and final term, including the US$34 billion relocation of the new capital to Borneo, the market-shaking commodity downstreaming policy and his goal of turning Indonesia into a high-income economy by 2045.

"We have to ensure the continuity of what we have built. Agree? This is what we have to protect together, not just for 2024, not just for 2029, but also for a Golden Indonesia in 2045 and onwards,” he said to loud cheers from the crowd.

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