Music, mascot to soften Prabowo's military image

Music, mascot to soften Prabowo's military image
Volunteers with the campaign team for Indonesia Presidential candidate Mr Prabowo Subianto, a former general, and his running mate, Mr Hatta Rajasa, who leads an Islamic party, performing at a roadshow held to drum up support for them.

JAKARTA - The sound of trumpets and drums fill the air as a 200-piece marching band and dancers strode through people jogging, cycling or walking along the capital's main thoroughfare.

Ten men at the front swing their large drums in step with the music while the band commander tosses and twirls his mace.

Together with stiltwalkers in clown costumes and volunteers handing out small packets of milk to children, these make up the roadshow held over the past few Sundays to call attention to the presidential campaign of former general Prabowo Subianto.

Indeed, campaign strategists are using music, imagery and colours to help Mr Prabowo stand out and to soften his hard military image while painting a picture of a firm leader.

"We are aiming for a creative and positive campaign," said Mr Yudha Permana, 36, chief of the Sahabat Prabowo (Friends of Prabowo) volunteer group that has been orchestrating the roadshows. "The music and show cheers you up, a more effective way to raise awareness of the Prabowo campaign," he told The Straits Times.

There's also superhero mascot Mas Garuda, a 2m-tall eagle fashioned after his Gerindra party's logo, and a games app called Prabowo: The Asian Tiger.

The campaign also seeks to portray Mr Prabowo and his running mate, former coordinating economic minister Hatta Rajasa, as figures who will live up to the ideals of founding president Sukarno - someone who is more commonly associated with the political party of his rival for the president's post, Mr Joko Widodo.

The Prabowo-Hatta ticket chose to announce their candidacy at an East Jakarta house where Sukarno once lived, now the focal point of their campaign and a supporters' base open round the clock to the public.

Mr Mukhlis Ali, coordinator of the Jaringan Muda Nusantara (Archipelago Youth Network), said many such red-white houses are popping up across Indonesia as a symbol of unity as they match the colours of the Indonesian flag.

The Muslim vote bank is also being keenly pursued.

After winning endorsements from prominent figures like Mr Said Aqil Siraj, chairman of Indonesia's largest Muslim organisation, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), Mr Prabowo made respected former constitutional court judge and NU figure Mahfud MD his national campaign chief.

The battle is also taken into living rooms. News outlets belonging to media moguls backing the Prabowo-Hatta camp regularly beam campaign messages and live telecasts of political events.

In cyberspace, youthful net-savvy campaigners are already in action on social media.

"The advantage of the Prabowo team is that its social media accounts are affiliated and organised. They have a consistent message to clarify and answer issues," said social media analyst Yose Rizal.

This article was first published on June 3, 2014.
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