Updated: 05/20/2014 02:25 | By Agence France-Presse

Indonesian presidential race tightens after surprise move

Indonesia's presidential race unexpectedly tightened Monday when the country's second-biggest party shifted its support from frontrunner Joko Widodo and backed a former general competing against him.


Indonesian presidential race tightens after surprise move

Indonesian presidential candidate Joko Widodo (L) introduces running mate Jusuf Kalla during a declaration as presidential and vice presidential candidates, at the Gedung Joang 45 in Jakarta, on May 19, 2014 - by Adek Berry

The decision by the Golkar party, the former political vehicle of long-serving dictator Suharto, means that ex-general Prabowo Subianto now has a bigger coalition backing him than Widodo has. 

Analysts said it was a shock move after Golkar -- which received almost 15 percent of the vote at legislative elections in April -- previously signalled it would support Widodo's Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) at the July 9 presidential election.

But while observers said it would close the gap, they added it will still be hard for the general to catch up as he remains far behind the popular Widodo, who is known by his nickname Jokowi and won legions of followers during his time as Jakarta governor.

While Widodo is seen as a fresh face, Subianto in contrast has deep roots in the era of dictator Suharto and has been accused of committing human rights abuses.

"I am certain this match will change Indonesia for the better," said Golkar's chairman, tycoon Aburizal Bakrie, after his party's support for Prabowo's Gerindra party was announced.

Subianto "is a firm figure and will ensure stability of this nation", he added.

Subianto said that Bakrie would be considered for a key ministerial position related to the economy in exchange for the party's support.

Parties have been scrambling to form coalitions following April's legislative elections, which set the stage for the presidential polls. 

Golkar's move means Gerindra's coalition is now made up of five parties and has almost 50 percent of the popular vote.

Widodo's PDI-P, the biggest party, has formed a coalition of four parties and has around 40 percent of the vote. 

A party, or coalition, needs 25 percent of the national vote to put a presidential candidate forward.

Tobias Basuki, an analyst from the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Jakarta, said Golkar's move was "certainly closing the gap".

But he added that this would not necessarily hurt Widodo's chances too much, saying: "Indonesian politics is very personality-based."

The development came after Widodo's campaign received a boost earlier in the day when he announced his running mate would be Jusuf Kalla, a popular former vice president seen as a formidable political operator.

A wealthy businessman and chairman of the Indonesian Red Cross, Kalla was vice president during current President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's first term in office, from 2004 to 2009.

Kalla is also a Golkar member. Analysts say the party appears to want a foot in both the PDI-P and Gerindra camps to maintain influence whatever the outcome of the election.

Presidential candidates must officially register to contest the elections by Tuesday.

Latest Photo Galleries on xinmsn

NEWS VIDEOS

MORE NEWS VIDEOS

facebook recommendations

LIVE NEWS RADIO STREAMING

  • 938 Live

    938LIVE is Singapore's only English news and talk station which transmits round the clock with an engaging and enticing spread of programmes on current affairs, health, business and lifestyle as well as news every half hour until midnight.

  • Capital 958


    95.8FM城市频道的前身是"第三广播网"。上个世纪30年代末,新加坡就有中文广播,一路走来经过不少政治,社会局势的改变,中文广播在本地一直扮演举足轻重的角色。