April 16, 2019 / 8:39 AM / 10 days ago

Jakarta motorbike taxi driver among hopefuls in Indonesia election

JAKARTA (Reuters) - The only motorbike taxi driver running for national parliament in Indonesia says he can’t afford the flashy billboards or music concerts used by other candidates to drum up support.

Suhandi hands out pens and stickers to fellow drivers and promises to fight for better working conditions if he wins a seat in Wednesday’s election.

He is among more than 245,000 candidates campaigning in simultaneous parliamentary and presidential polls in the world’s third-biggest democracy.

“Since I don’t have money, my campaign style is door-to-door, face-to-face, and talking to my fellow motorcycle taxi drivers,” said Suhandi, 40, who uses only one name.

The father of a two-year-old boy earns about 150,000 rupiah ($10.66) a day ferrying passengers around the capital Jakarta, and often works a seven-day week to make more than the minimum wage.

“I am probably the poorest candidate,” quipped Suhandi, a candidate for the National Awakening Party (PKB), part of a coalition backing President Joko Widodo’s bid for re-election.

“If I am successful, I will legalize motorcycle taxis as a form of public transportation,” Suhandi said, adding he would seek a seat on the parliamentary committee on transport.

His campaign pledges include insurance for drivers and minimum tariffs for motorbike ride-hailing.

The number of motorbike taxi drivers in Southeast Asia’s biggest economy has surged along with mobile apps that offer rides to commuters or food delivery services. Many drivers complain about working long hours for low pay.

Suhandi is not the only unconventional candidate in what is described as the world’s biggest single-day election.

Former WBA featherweight boxing champion Yohannes Christian “Chris” John is running for parliament, as is pop singer and actress Krisdayanti.

Candidates with catchy names have gone viral on social media.

“Mikhail Gorbachev” is running for PSI, a party targeting young voters. Fransisca Santa Clause is standing for an Islamic party in local elections on the main island of Java.

Clause, who was uncomfortable with her name, decided to run after encouragement from her family and the party, news portal Detik.com reported.

The path to parliament is not easy.

Suhandi is among 108 candidates in his Jakarta district and hopes to win enough votes to grab one of the eight seats representing it.

“If I fail, I will continue my job as a motorbike taxi driver,” he said.

Additional reporting by Tabita Diela; writing by Ed Davies; editing by Darren Schuettler

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