JAKARTA - With less than two weeks left before the July 9 presidential election, Mr Joko Widodo and his campaign team are working hard to woo back a group seen to have moved away from him - urban, middle-class voters.
Recent surveys show them backing rival Prabowo Subianto in equal, if not larger, numbers.
Yesterday, Mr Joko, the Jakarta governor since 2012, rushed from one engagement to another in the capital to rally volunteers to go door to door, as well as online, to win over undecided voters in the coming days.
A good number of middle-class voters say that they feel Mr Joko, commonly known as Jokowi, lacks the "presidential" look and capacity to lead the nation of 250 million people.
This is in contrast to Mr Prabowo, a former special forces commander who they feel is a better speaker and a firm leader.
A joint survey by the Indonesian Survey Institute (LSI) and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems released this week found that the race had narrowed further with support for Mr Joko at 43 per cent, a slim 4 percentage point lead over his rival at 39 per cent, compared with the 6 to 7 percentage point gap that surveys released a fortnight earlier showed. The survey also showed that support for Mr Prabowo surpassed that for Mr Joko by about 10 percentage points among middle-class voters.
However, Mr Joko's support among lower-income earners surpassed that for Mr Prabowo by 12 percentage points.
LSI executive director Dodi Ambardi said that many of the previously undecided voters who chose to back Mr Prabowo are middle-income earners.
"Prabowo's campaign organisation is more systematic and they reach the middle class more effectively.
"Prabowo's style is also more attractive to the middle class," Mr Dodi told The Straits Times.
Mr Ferry Husni, 42, head teller at a state-controlled bank, said that he would support Mr Prabowo because he believes that the former three-star general has a firm bearing and is highly intelligent.
"Jokowi often has this amateurish style of talking. Would you want to have a president like that? That would be embarrassing," he told The Straits Times.
"He also likes to make jokes when he is speaking, as if he were not serious. That is not a good style for a president," he added.
Others note that both men have their strong points, a factor that could explain why LSI found that as many as 18 per cent of voters remain undecided.
Among them is Mr Hendriyanto, 43, an executive with a Middle Eastern bank in Jakarta, who felt Mr Joko was uncorrupt and would fight graft, one of the country's biggest problems.
"But to be Indonesian president takes professional capacity, capability, not just good character...
"Prabowo has good international networks and a command of English, and we need a president who can mingle well in international forums," he said.
But former general Fachrul Rozi, a volunteer in Mr Joko's campaign, believes more of the undecided voters, including those from the middle class, will vote for Mr Joko.
He cited how the presidential debates showed Mr Joko as a man of action compared with his rival who has grand but untested plans, saying: "Jokowi could speak clearly and in detail about what to do to govern Indonesia. That shows his ability and strong understanding. Prabowo only talks about concepts."
Several supporters of Mr Prabowo have circulated on social media a video featuring interviews in English by both Mr Prabowo and Mr Joko, to highlight the latter's poor command of the language.
But others said that they would not be swayed by this.
"English comprehension is not relevant. Debate skills are not important either. What's important is you can work," said Mr Al Fadjri Adnan, 42, who works in an oil and gas company.
"The Japanese and Chinese don't speak English well and their countries are advanced and prosperous."
This article was first published on June 27, 2014.
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