Indonesia Elections 2024: From contentious figure to crowd magnet, VP candidate Gibran

Mr Gibran tried his best to shake everyone’s hands but it was hard to gauge if he was enjoying the spotlight. He was mostly quiet when people screamed his name with barely a smile on his face. Mr Gibran also ignored calls from reporters following his campaign trail that day for a brief interview.

The vice-presidential candidate also kept mostly to himself when other people were on stage, observing quietly as other politicians seated around him were busy mingling and chatting with each other.

But when it came time for him to make his speech, Mr Gibran transformed from a quiet listener to a confident speaker capable of moving the crowd.

“Thank you for your welcome. The people of Banyuwangi have been very kind,” he said to the cheers and thunderous applause from his adoring supporters before proceeding to introduce the ticket’s key programmes.

The same confidence was shown when Mr Gibran squared off against his rivals Muhaimin and Mahfud during a vice-presidential debate on Dec 22. Mr Gibran was able to communicate the pair’s vision clearly and threw in some counter punches when his rivals grilled or attacked him.

For Mdm Istifadah, who goes by one name, the debate showed that Mr Gibran had a lot more to offer than his youth and connection to the sitting president.

“I was impressed. I hope he becomes a good leader who can embrace everyone,” said the 47-year-old snack seller who came to see the vice-presidential candidate at the aerobics event.

Mr Arya Fernandes of the Jakarta-based think-tank, Centre for Strategic and International Studies, echoed the sentiment. 

“His performance at the (Dec 22) vice-presidential debate was beyond people’s expectations. He was quite impressive, showing that he was in tune with the latest issues,” the political expert told CNA.

But it takes a lot more to convince the public that he is of “vice-presidential material”, the pundit said.

“He has been trying to prove that he is a worthy candidate and more than just the president’s son. But this image is hard to shake off,” Mr Arya said. 

One factor is his inexperience and lack of political achievement which might not convince people that Mr Gibran is himself a noteworthy leader.

“The progress in Solo was largely the work of his father and F. X. Rudy. Gibran was simply continuing what they have done,” he said, referring to Mr Jokowi’s successor as mayor, Fransiskus Xaverius Hadi Rudyatmo.

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