Popular governor's presidential run set to lift party's votes

Popular governor's presidential run set to lift party's votes

Jakarta governor and presidential contender Joko Widodo says the question of his running mate will be decided by his Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P) and its chairman, former president Megawati Sukarnoputri.

That decision is unlikely to come before the April 9 general election, and Mr Joko, 52, did not give an indication of timing in his first interview after being named the party's candidate for the top job.

But he told Kompas TV his own nomination was the result of a "long process".

"We hope PDI-P will win with a high percentage in the legislative election so there's a strong government, backed by strong assemblies and Parliament," he added.

Mr Joko's entry into the presidential race has, overnight, radically changed the dynamics as full-scale campaigning for the general election started on Sunday.

PDI-P is expected to gain a significant jump in its vote share, as projected by several recent surveys, were Mr Joko to be named its candidate before polling day.

These polls found the party would get below 20 per cent of the votes on April 9 if it did not name Mr Joko as its candidate, and at least 27 per cent if it did, well ahead of closest competitor Golkar.

An Indo Barometer poll in January found that the party could get 35.8 per cent, surpassing the 33.7 per cent popular vote it got in 1999.

Political analyst Hanta Yuda told a forum on Saturday: "Almost all parties are not happy with Jokowi's nomination. If the PDI-P gains votes, all other parties will see their share decline."

Particularly hit will be smaller parties, which may find it hard to meet the 3.5 per cent threshold of popular votes nationwide needed to enter Parliament.

The presidential election takes place only three months later, on July 9.

Given Mr Joko's commanding lead in public opinion polls, a major focus will be the intense jostling to be his running mate.

Already, veteran politician and former vice-president Jusuf Kalla's name has surfaced as a favourite for the No. 2 post.

An Indo Barometer poll released last Wednesday found that a Joko-Kalla pairing would get 36 per cent of votes in July.

Yesterday, Mr Kalla, 71, reminded Mr Joko and his party to consider carefully the matter of a running mate.

Drawing a comparison with the two leaders who declared Indonesia's independence in 1945, he said: "We have to look to experience. Sukarno and (Mohammad) Hatta complemented one another. That's the formula: Each complementing the other."

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