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Indonesia election: West Java sees fierce contest

The province of West Java is seeing one of the fiercest contests in the Indonesian presidential election. Recent opinion polls show former general Prabowo Subianto has a slender lead over his rival Joko Widodo in the area.

WEST JAVA: The province of West Java is seeing one of the fiercest contests in the Indonesian presidential election.

Recent opinion polls show former general Prabowo Subianto has a slender lead over his rival Joko Widodo in the area.

West Java is Indonesia’s most populated province, with 46 million people.

Besides having the largest percentage of voters in the country -- 18 per cent, or 33 million voters -- the candidate who wins in the province will be making history.

Adjie Alfaraby, researcher at Indonesia Survey Circle, said: "Even though this is a myth that cannot be rationalised, but if you look into Indonesia's election history, the winning party or the presidential candidate that wins in West Java comes out as the election winner. It's a myth in Indonesia's general elections."

Mr Prabowo's intensive campaign in West Java is bearing fruit.

Latest opinion polls showed he has overtaken Mr Widodo with a slim margin of under 10 per cent.

The swing is attributed to undecided voters, who account for over 20 per cent of voters nationwide.

But Mr Widodo is trying to regain the upper hand.

The Jakarta governor has visited several Muslim boarding schools or pesantrens to consolidate his support, which is critical in a province that is overwhelmingly Muslim.

While he could possibly sway Muslim voters in rural areas, those in the cities are more challenging.

Mr Adjie Alfaraby said: "This is what makes the area competitive for both presidential candidates. Why does our recent survey show Prabowo is leading in West Java?

“It's because many Islamic organisations are based in West Java cities such as Bandung, Depok and Bekasi. The cities are basis points for the Prosperous Justice Party, who are affiliated to Prabowo."

West Java's governor is a member of the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), which can wield significant influence among voters.

And Mr Prabowo is capitalising on his endorsement from governor Ahmad Heryawan.

Mr Prabowo said: "My wish is to work with the red and white coalition, with Hatta Rajasa, Ahmad Heryawan, Yance and other public figures. We only wish to safeguard the future of the Indonesian people."

But Mr Widodo has strong electoral support too.

His Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) was West Java's biggest winner in April's parliamentary elections.

Mr Widodo has also promised to bring greater prosperity to Indonesia's biggest rice producer.

He said: "West Java is the nation's rice barn, and the building of dams will be a priority."

The Indonesian presidential election looks set to be a tight race, right up to the end. 

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