Jakarta governor Joko Widodo looks set to be front runner in presidential race

Jakarta governor Joko Widodo looks set to be front runner in presidential race

With one survey after another now telling almost the same story for the past six months, it is tempting to think Indonesia's next government could well be a two-party coalition with a comfortable parliamentary majority.

Indeed, since former president Megawati Sukarnoputri's Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P) and the once-ruling Golkar party are now so far in front of the 11-party pack, why look elsewhere unless a token Muslim partner is considered important and advisable?

If front-running Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo is PDI-P's choice as a presidential candidate, as is widely expected, analysts believe Ms Megawati would be wise to declare him as early as next January, rather than wait until after the April legislative elections.

That's because it could put a rocket under the PDI-P's poll numbers.

Now hovering at 21 per cent, PDI-P's support is ahead of that of Golkar at 19 per cent, the Greater Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) at 10 per cent to 11 per cent, and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's Democrat Party, which has slumped to a single digit.

Some analysts believe the Widodo factor has become so potent, particularly among Indonesia's vast number of young voters, that it could propel PDI-P above the 30 per cent mark, giving it close to 200 seats in the 560-seat House of Representatives.

The PDI-P is still the only party to have achieved such success in the democratic era. It won 33.7 per cent of the vote in 1999, the year after former president Suharto's downfall, when Ms Megawati was a democratic icon and 22 parties secured parliamentary seats.

Unless something untoward happens in the horse trading that follows any legislative election, only Mr Widodo, Gerindra leader Prabowo Subianto and Golkar chairman Aburizal Bakrie look likely to contest the presidential race in July.

With the field realistically narrowed down to those three, one recent poll has Mr Widodo cruising on 49.4 per cent of the vote, trailed by former front runner Mr Prabowo (24.1 per cent) and Mr Bakrie (16.8 per cent).

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