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Indonesia campaign rallies draw tens of thousands

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By Agence France-Presse

About 100,000 people filled Jakarta’s main stadium Saturday for a huge rally in support of Indonesian president Joko Widodo, just days ahead of the biggest-ever elections in the world’s number-three democracy.

Widodo is leading presidential challenger Prabowo Subianto, a former general, by double-digits in most opinion polls going into Wednesday’s poll.

The two men held their final televised debate Saturday evening.

Earlier, the capital’s already congested streets were jammed with colorful parades and peaceful demonstrations, bringing traffic to a standstill.

At the main stadium, Widodo supporters waved Indonesia’s red-and-white flag as they sang and danced to performances by dozens of musicians.

The crowd cheered as the 57-year-old incumbent, popularly known as Jokowi, pledged his commitment to pluralism in the Muslim-majority country of more than 260 million.

“Our country is a big nation of different ethnicities, religions, traditions, and cultures,” he said.

Subianto held his last rally on Friday, which attracted tens of thousands.

His vice-presidential running-mate Sandiaga Uno, a wealthy financier reported to have spent $100 million on his campaign, held a big rally Saturday in Tangerang near Jakarta.

“God willing, with Prabowo and Sandi we will create a fair and prosperous Indonesia,” Uno told the crowd.

Subianto’s team has warned it would challenge the results over voter-list irregularities if he lost — setting up a repeat of the pair’s 2014 contest, which Widodo won despite an unsuccessful court challenge to his narrow victory.

Widodo campaigned on his infrastructure-driven bid to rev up Southeast Asia’s largest economy, while Subianto pledged more defense spending and a review of foreign investment in the sprawling archipelago.

Food vendor Ali Suhardi, 55, said he would vote for the heavy metal music-loving Widodo, but across the city, Romlah was itching for a new leader.

“I want to change that will make this country better,” said the Subianto supporter, who goes by one name.

More than 190 million Indonesians will choose their next president, parliamentarians and thousands of local officials on April 17.

There are a record 245,000 candidates competing with some 800,000 polling stations across the country.

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