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Indonesia ruling party backs Prabowo's presidential bid

Indonesia's ruling party on Monday threw its support behind presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto ahead of elections next week, a further boost for the ex-general and a blow to frontrunner Joko Widodo.

JAKARTA: Indonesia's ruling party on Monday threw its support behind presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto ahead of elections next week, a further boost for the ex-general and a blow to frontrunner Joko Widodo.

"The Democratic Party central executive board has decided and instructed... members and all supporters across Indonesia to give their full support and vote to presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto," party chairman Syarief Hasan said in a statement on the party's website.

The party of outgoing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, which won 10 percent of the popular vote at legislative elections in April, had previously pledged to stay neutral in the July 9 election.

But it said Prabowo and his running mate Hatta Rajasa had a "vision and mission" that were "in line with the Democratic Party", and it believed the pair would continue to support Yudhoyono's economic and welfare programmes when in power.

The move expands the coalition backing Prabowo -- he already enjoys the support of the country's second-biggest party, Golkar, and several small Islamic parties -- and is a further blow to Widodo, known by his nickname of Jokowi.

Widodo, who won legions of fans with his down-to-earth style when he was Jakarta governor, has seen a lead of more than 30 percentage points several months ago rapidly dwindle in the face of a tough challenge from Prabowo.

The latest opinion survey out Monday, from pollster Roy Morgan, showed Widodo with a lead of just four percentage points, on 52 percent with Prabowo on 48. Around 3,000 people were quizzed for the poll across Indonesia.

"The presidential election is now too close to call," said the pollster.

Prabowo, who was a general during the era of Suharto and has a chequered human rights record, has run a slick, well-funded campaign and Widodo's team have accused him of repeatedly seeking to smear their candidate.

Widodo in contrast does not have the same funds as Prabowo, his campaign has appeared at times disorganised, and there have been divisions in his Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle over his nomination for the presidency.

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