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Indonesia's Prabowo gets ex-wife's support in presidential race

Siti Hediati Harijadi, the ex-wife of Indonesian presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto, has declared support for him. She is the daughter of former president Suharto.

YOGYAKARTA: Indonesian presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto has the tough task of making inroads into the province of Yogyakarta - the traditional stronghold of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P).

But he is getting backing from an unusual source - his ex-wife Siti Hediati Harijadi - daughter of former president Suharto.

Despite being divorced from Mr Prabowo for 16 years, Siti Hediati Harijadi, also known as Titiek Suharto, has declared her support for him, saying that he is the right man to lead Indonesia.

She rode on the wave of nostalgia for her father and won a seat in Yogyakarta on a Golkar ticket.

But while the Suharto name may have helped in Ms Titiek's maiden attempt at politics, analysts are not as sure if the alliance will do the same for Mr Prabowo's stab at the presidency.

Arie Sujito from Gadjah Mada University’s Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, said: "This can be seen potentially as a revival of the New Order. To bring back memories of the new order in Yogyakarta is not necessarily effective in this presidential election. I'm sure it will be a blunder for Prabowo-Hatta."

But some voters have expressed hopes that a Prabowo presidency will hark back to the glory days of the Suharto regime.

There have even been calls for Mr Prabowo and Ms Titiek to remarry - to bring back the Suharto era.

Yogyakarta resident Winarni said: "I was still in school during Suharto's time and my parents were civil servants. I felt life was better, we could find whatever we needed without any difficulties. There was also development during Suharto's era."

With political opinions divided, tensions are growing, but the governor of Yogyakarta is hoping to calm things down.

The sultan and governor of Yogyakarta, Hamengkubuwono X, said that he would remain neutral in the presidential elections.

Hamengkubuwono X, who was previously a member of the Golkar party, insisted that he would not evaluate any of the presidential candidates.

Political analysts said the decision of the sultan not to take sides is important. By remaining neutral, analysts said the sultan can help reduce the tensions on the ground -- something clearly needed in what is shaping up to be a very tight race to the presidency. 

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