Indonesian election campaign kicks off

2014-06-04 10:58
Indonesian presidential candidate Joko Widodo shows his ballot papers at a polling station in Jakarta, Indonesia. (File, AP)

Indonesian presidential candidate Joko Widodo shows his ballot papers at a polling station in Jakarta, Indonesia. (File, AP)

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Jakarta - Campaigning for next month's presidential election in Indonesia officially began on Wednesday, pitting a popular Jakarta governor against a former special forces commander.

Indonesians will go to the polls on 9 July to choose between governor Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, the candidate of the opposition Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-Perjuangan), and former general Prabowo Subianto, who has the backing of four other political parties.

Opinion polls suggest that 52-year-old Joko is the favourite, but there are indications that Prabowo, aged 62, the former son-in-law of the late Indonesian strongman Suharto, is narrowing the gap.

The two candidates signed a clean campaign pledge late on Tuesday. "We are determined to engage in a clean and peaceful campaign," said Prabowo, the founder of the Great Indonesia Party (Gerindra).

"We will not do things that are detrimental to the people," he added. Prabowo picked former economic minister Hatta Rajasa as his running mate, while Joko is teaming up with former vice president Jusuf Kalla.

Smear campaigns

Prabowo has a controversial military record. He was accused of human rights abuses, including in East Timor, which Indonesia occupied until 1999.

He accepted responsibility for the kidnappings of dissidents during the last days of Suharto's 32-year rule in 1998, and was discharged from military service the same year.

Joko won the Jakarta gubernatorial election in 2012 and has since built a reputation as a capable leader with a common touch, helped by his visits to the capital's poor neighbourhoods.

Even before the official campaign started, smear campaigns had targeted both candidates. Rumours circulated that Joko was not Muslim and instead ethnic Chinese, an attempt estrange him from the majority of Indonesians who are Muslim.

He denied the accusations, saying he and his family members had performed the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. Prabowo meanwhile was accused of being a Jordanian citizen. After Suharto's fall Prabowo went into voluntary exile in Jordan, where he was a guest of Jordanian King Abdullah.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's Democratic Party, which won only 10% of the votes in last month's legislative elections, has not allied itself with either candidate.

- SAPA
Read more on:    indonesia
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