April 12, 2019 / 9:56 AM / 2 months ago

"Beam me up": Indonesian president uses holograms to woo rural voters

KARAWANG, Indonesia (Reuters) - A crowd of villagers cheers as a holographic image of Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo appears at a campaign rally outside the capital, Jakarta.

Widodo and his rival, former general Prabowo Subianto, have been criss-crossing the archipelago of more than 17,000 islands, a span exceeding the length of the United States, to rally support ahead of Wednesday’s presidential election.

Widodo hopes to extend his reach with hologram technology, deployed also by leaders such as India’s Narendra Modi and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdorgan in recent years, as a way of seeming to appear in several places at once.

“I am very pleased to meet you here with this technology called ‘hologram’,” Widodo’s life-sized projection says in a pre-recorded message.

“This hologram technology is one hundred percent made by our people, this is the work of our (younger generation).”

Wearing his signature casual white shirt, jeans and sneakers, the holographic Widodo promotes his plan to tackle Indonesia’s education and employment issues, in hopes of appealing to rural and young voters.

Ninik, a young voter at this week’s rally, said she enjoyed the experience. “It feels like Jokowi is here with us,” she added, using a popular nickname for the president.

Another, a housewife named Mariani, said she would vote for Widodo.

FILE PHOTO: Hologram of Indonesia's presidential candidate Joko Widodo is seen at a carnival during a campaign rally in Tangerang, Banten province, Indonesia, April 7, 2019. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan/File Photo

“This is really helpful in the campaign,” one of Widodo’s campaign organisers said of the holograms.

About 192 million people, including five million young people voting for the first time, are eligible to cast their ballots in the fiercely contested race, in which most opinion polls give Widodo a comfortable lead.

Prabowo, 67, has not used hologram technology, but his running mate, Sandiaga Uno, a 49-year-old marathon-running business tycoon, has visited 1,500 places across Indonesia.

Reporting by Widodo Hadijatmiko; Writing by Tabita Diela; Editing by Kanupriya Kapoor and Clarence Fernandez

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