Tactical brains behind Prabowo campaign

Tactical brains behind Prabowo campaign

While "well-organised" and "coordinated" may describe Mr Prabowo Subianto's presidential campaign, one man is being credited for running a tactical race that helped the candidate narrow a nearly 30 percentage point difference down to single digits.

That man is Mr Rob Allyn - an American political consultant who advised former United States president George W. Bush when he campaigned for governor of Texas in 1994, and helped orchestrate the rise of Vincente Fox in 2000 to become president of Mexico.

In a call from California where he is based, Mr Allyn, 54, told The Straits Times that his involvement in Indonesian politics began in 2004. That was when Mr Prabowo's younger brother Hashim Djojohadikusumo hired him to create TV advertisements to give Golkar a boost in the parliamentary elections, and then for Mr Prabowo in his failed bid for the Golkar chairmanship. He was also hired to create the commercials for Mr Prabowo's rival Joko Widodo, when he ran for Jakarta governor in 2012.

Mr Allyn has now become Mr Hashim's close friend and business partner. He also did television commercials during the parliamentary elections for Gerindra, the party that Mr Prabowo now leads, and in addition to his presidential campaign. His work includes carrying out surveys and analysing at focus groups.

"All we really do is to take what the candidate is, what his strengths are, and test that with voters and find out what about that candidate they like," he said. "Then we accent those things in our advertisements, identify what key problems voters are concerned about, and then present our candidate or party or cause as the solution."

But accusations have been levelled against him for being the brains behind the smear campaigns that attacked Mr Joko's race, nationalism and Islamic faith - tactics analysts said eroded support among Indonesians for Mr Joko. "It's an assertion that is incorrect and wrong," he said. "I detest smear campaigns, and won't have any part of it. They are morally wrong and incredibly ineffective," he added.

"I think a campaign that blew a 30 point lead in the last couple of months... needs something to blame it on," he said.

This article was first published on July 20, 2014.
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