Thousands of people took part in a protest in Boyolali, Central Java, on Sunday, in response to presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto’s joking remark about “Boyolali faces.”
Boyolali Regent Seno Samodra and several other local leaders joined the protest, including the deputy regent and members of the Regional Legislative Council.
Seno, who is a member of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) and has previously expressed his support for President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s reelection bid, called on Prabowo to apologize for the remark.
“‘Boyolali face’ is a disparaging remark and it’s understandable that Boyolali residents are angry and are protesting,” he said during the demonstration. “Prabowo must apologize to the people of Boyolali.”
Seno even went so far as to urge the protesters not to vote for Prabowo in the upcoming elections.
“We don’t have to insult Pak Prabowo, but let us agree not to choose a presidential candidate who insults Boyolali,” he said. “Let us take a firm decision, not to vote for Prabowo. Agree?”
Prabowo made the comment during a speech centered on income inequality at the opening of a Prabowo-Sandiaga Uno campaign team office in Boyolali last Tuesday.
Prabowo said that, in Jakarta, there were a lot of fancy international hotels with names many people “probably can’t even pronounce”. Later, he joked, “If you try to enter [these hotels], you will probably be kicked out. Your faces are not those of rich people, your faces are just those of Boyolali people. Right?”
The audience laughed at the remark but a clip of the speech that was uploaded on YouTube went viral on Friday, eliciting negative reactions from many netizens, resulting in the hashtag #SaveMukaBoyolali (#SaveTheBoyolaliFace).
Prabowo himself expressed bemusement at the response to his remarks. “I am confused, if I joke around, it becomes an issue. Everything I do becomes an issue,” he said on Sunday as quoted by kompas.com.