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Indonesia's crucial choice for president

Indonesia's crucial choice for president
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Indonesia faces a key choice on Wednesday in a presidential election that pits the old against the new.

The contest could be the last chance for old style politicians to lead the world’s third largest democracy, and one of its youngest.

In the left corner stands former general Prabowo Subianto. In the right is Joko Widodo, who has arrived on the national scene through local politics, the first candidate to ever do so.

Many analysts believe the race is just too close to call.

Firman Noor, analyst at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences said: “Until now we still can’t predict who will win, looking at the trend I believe it is going to be a very close fight.”

At 62, Prabowo is making his third attempt to become president. He is backed by Golkar, one of Indonesia’s two largest and most powerful parties.

Once married to a daughter of former iron ruler Suharto, he was a favoured member of his inner circle. His allies now include lots of people in the coalition of the current President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. That also means several of his supporters are facing corruption charges.

Prabowo is also facing accusations over his past in the military. He is alleged to have ordered the abduction of pro-democracy militants towards the end of the Suharto era and human-rights abuses in East Timor.
Some also believe he was behind a failed coup in 1998 following the collapse of Suharto’s regime.

But Prabowo has never been investigated on any criminal charge and consistently denies any wrongdoing.

Prabowo’s campaign pledge to form a “strong and effective” government appear to have appealed to many who want the status quo to remain firmly as it is.

By contrast, two years ago his rival Jokowi, as Widodo is widely known, was largely in the political wilderness. Now the 52-year-old has a following to make a filmstar proud thanks to his drive to give the most needy access to healthcare and education.

Born into poverty, he has stormed his way into the spotlight with a clean image and a reputation for competence in local government.

Jokowi is widely seen as a breath of fresh air and a reversal of the autocratic, corruption plagued power politics that have crippled the country for years.

Analysts, however, say the only real worry about him is his relationship with ex-president Megawati Sukarnoputri.

Many fear she will be the power behind the throne if he wins election. It is an image Jokowi does little to dispel with his public displays of deference to her, but supporters of the young pretender say he will not be anyone’s stooge if elected.