JAKARTA - When National Democratic Party (NasDem) chief Surya Paloh stood on stage at a stadium in Koja, North Jakarta, on Tuesday, he was greeted by thousands of people wearing the party colours of dark blue and orange, with matching caps and flags.
The same day, over in Palembang, South Sumatra, tens of thousands wearing blue attended a rally featuring Democratic Party chief and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
And two weeks ago, when Gerindra chief Prabowo Subianto stood on stage at the Gelora Bung Karno stadium, the 60,000 crowd was decked out in red and white.
This dress code of party colours is a unique feature of the Indonesian election scene.
"This is beautiful, right? All of us coming together in the same colour," said Mr Aries, 56, a labourer from Tanjung Priok, who was at the NasDem event on Tuesday. The business of organising T-shirts, banners and caps spikes every election, and, critics add, inflate campaign costs.
Mr Ade Sudrajat, chief of the Indonesian Textile Association, told Tempo news website last month that orders for election shirts and T-shirts this year totalled some 600 billion rupiah (S$66 million), up from 900 billion rupiah in the last election five years ago.
But the organisation of buses and T-shirts for crowds at campaign rallies has a darker side. Many attendees expect food, drinks and money for filling up stadiums and football fields.
After one rally organised by one of the smallest parties taking part in the polls, the Indonesian Justice and Unity Party, dozens of red-and-white T-shirts were found strewn on the road, the Detik news site reported last week.
The reason? The attendees were not paid the amount promised by organisers for showing up at a Jakarta stadium.
"The price agreed was 25,000 rupiah per person, but we were given 15,000 rupiah so we threw out the T-shirts," resident Udin from Cilincing, North Jakarta, told the website.
This article was published on April 4 in The Straits Times.
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