Widodo holds on to poll lead ahead of Indonesia presidential vote

Presidential front runner Joko Widodo maintains lead despite growing challenge from nationalist rival Prabawo Subianto as time runs out before July 9 vote

PUBLISHED : Friday, 27 June, 2014, 3:22pm
UPDATED : Friday, 27 June, 2014, 3:35pm

Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo is holding on to his strong lead in the race to become Indonesia’s next president though it is narrowing ahead of the July 9 vote, a new opinion poll showed on Friday.

Analysts say Widodo, who is known by the nickname “Jokowi”, has been hit by an aggressive negative campaign by supporters of ex-general Prabowo Subianto, his only rival. The possibility of a win by the heavily nationalist Prabowo has unnerved investors and weighed on an already weakening rupiah, which is now around four-month lows against the US dollar.

The state-funded Indonesian Institute of Sciences survey of 790 voters between June 5 and 24, found 43 per cent support for Widodo, 34 per cent for Prabowo.

But illustrating how much is still to play for, it said 23 per cent of voters have yet to make up their mind.

Widodo’s own campaign team says it is making a push in two or three major provinces, which it believes could swing either way.

In particular, it sees Widodo as vulnerable in the biggest province of West Java where conservative Muslim parties backing Prabowo have strong influence.

Indonesia is home to the world’s biggest Muslim population. The political party linked to the country’s biggest Islamic group supports Widodo, but three other Muslim-based parties are on the side of Prabowo.

The latest poll supports most other recent polls showing Widodo ahead, but with the size of his lead narrowing. Most also show a sizeable percentage of undecided voters.

At stake is leadership of Southeast Asia’s biggest economy whose rapid growth has begun to moderate in the face of declining prices for many of its major commodity exports.

The outgoing government has been criticised for failing to do enough to promote manufactured exports and make the economy less vulnerable to cyclical commodity prices or to cut into a huge fuel subsidy bill.

The cost of subsidising fast growing demand for fuel means that whoever does become president will have little room in the budget to implement many of their proposed policies. However, both candidates have pledged to cut back on the subsidies.