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Indonesia's Widodo hangs on to slim lead before poll

Indonesian presidential hopeful Joko Widodo has a lead of less than three percentage points over his rival, a poll showed Tuesday, a day before the country's tightest election since the downfall of former president Suharto.

JAKARTA: Indonesian presidential hopeful Joko Widodo has a lead of less than three percentage points over his rival, a poll showed Tuesday, a day before the country's tightest election since the downfall of former president Suharto.

Jakarta governor Widodo, known by his nickname Jokowi, is 2.7 points ahead of ex-general Prabowo Subianto, according to the survey from Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting.

The pollster said that with the gap so narrow, the country's third direct presidential election since the end of authoritarian rule in 1998 had become a test.

It warned there was the "potential for cheating" and that democracy "could collapse", adding that: "The worst scenario is chaos."

Widodo is from a new generation of political leaders, a stark contrast to Prabowo, who was a top military figure during Suharto's three-decade rule.

Up until several months ago, the 53-year-old looked to be on a smooth path to the presidency, with polls giving him a lead of about 30 percentage points over Prabowo.

But his support has shrunk dramatically in the face of a slick campaign by Prabowo and a flood of negative attacks.

Tuesday's poll put him on 47.6 per cent, to Prabowo's 44.9 per cent.

The pollster said that 7.5 per cent of those questioned were undecided or refused to answer. Around 2,000 voters were quizzed between June 30 and July 3 for the survey, which had a margin of error of 2.2 per cent.

The poll was conducted before the final presidential election debate on Saturday, in which Widodo and his running mate, former vice president Jusuf Kalla, were considered to have done better than Prabowo and his deputy.

Widodo, a former furniture exporter, won huge popularity with his humble background and down-to-earth approach as Jakarta governor, and was credited with initiating projects to solve the capital's myriad problems.

Prabowo, 63, has admitted ordering the abduction of democracy activists, used to be married to Suharto's daughter, and critics fear he may shift Indonesia back towards authoritarian rule.

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