Indonesians pack out stadiums for final election rallies

Presidential candidate Anies Baswedan held his final campaign rally in Jakarta (BAY ISMOYO)
Presidential candidate Anies Baswedan held his final campaign rally in Jakarta (BAY ISMOYO)

Around 100,000 people filled a Jakarta stadium Saturday for a huge rally in support of Indonesian presidential election front runner Prabowo Subianto, just days ahead of one of the world's biggest one-day votes.

Supporters also turned out in their tens of thousands for the final rallies of his rival candidates -- former provincial governors Anies Baswedan and Ganjar Pranowo -- in the battle to lead the massive, Muslim-majority nation.

Third-time candidate Subianto, the current defence minister, is leading Baswedan and Pranowo by double digits in polls ahead of Wednesday's vote.

"Me, my father and mother have supported Prabowo continuously since 2014," said Novita Agustina, a 24-year-old first-time voter who travelled four hours to see the ex-general speak.

She lauded his work as defence minister and shrugged off rights groups' concerns about his track record, saying criticism was "just attacks from opponents... I don't want to hear anything bad".

Others praised his tenacity in running a third time for the presidency.

The crowd at the national stadium cheered as the 72-year-old Subianto launched into a characteristically fiery address.

"We will fight to bring prosperity for all people of Indonesia," he said.

"We will continue what was already being built by previous presidents."

Many Subianto supporters wore blue shirts, some emblazoned with an AI cartoon image of his face that has become synonymous with his campaign.

Subianto has campaigned on a pledge to eradicate extreme poverty, provide free school meals to children and milk to pregnant women, and continue President Joko Widodo's development drive.

The capital's streets were brought to a standstill by throngs of scooters and cars heading to the rallies.

The entrances to the stadium in north Jakarta where Baswedan addressed supporters became so packed that several people fainted, according to an AFP journalist there. Many had camped overnight for the event.

"We want to witness change," said Endang Pujiati, a retired school teacher who drove hours to attend Baswedan's rally.

"Anies is a trustworthy person, that's why he could be a good leader."

Pranowo was holding two events on Saturday in the cities of Semarang and Surakarta, Central Java province, which he used to govern.

More than 204 million Indonesians will choose their next president, parliamentarians and thousands of local officials on February 14.

They will cast their ballots at more than 800,000 polling booths across the volcano-dotted archipelago.

After Saturday's rallies the candidates will observe three quiet campaign days before the vote.