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Jakarta seen as one of key battlegrounds in presidential election

As Jakarta's former governor, Joko Widodo is expected to have a wide base of support in the capital. But major opinion polls show Jakarta is set to be one of the key battlegrounds in July's presidential election.

JAKARTA: Indonesia's two presidential candidates Joko Widodo and Prabowo Subianto are campaigning hard to garner votes across the country.

As Jakarta's former governor, the popular Joko Widodo -- or Jokowi as he is nicknamed -- is expected to have a wide base of support in the capital.

But major opinion polls show that Jakarta is actually set to be one of the key battlegrounds in July's presidential election.

In 2012, Jakarta residents had high hopes for the newly-appointed governor who pledged to seek solutions for the capital's chronic problems of traffic, floods and poverty.

His impromptu visits to check on work progress and hands-on style were a hit among residents and the media.

But Mr Widodo's decision to run in the presidential race left Jakarta residents with mixed feelings and some even felt betrayed.

One resident said: "I felt I was being abandoned, indeed we were left behind. But what can we do? He wants to become a presidential candidate."

Another commented: "If he runs for president, hopefully he can further develop the country."

A popular opinion poll conducted by the Indonesia Survey Circle shows the former Jakarta governor with a small lead of 6 per cent over his rival Mr Prabowo.

Last week's survey showed that Mr Widodo and Jusuf Kalla received 45 per cent while Mr Prabowo and Hatta Rajasa received 38.7 per cent of voter support.

This means the public's perception of Mr Prabowo is steadily improving.

But the former governor is fighting back.

He wants voters to know that he can do more to help Jakarta as the nation's president.

Mr Widodo said: "There is plenty that I can do for Jakarta. I will be able to handle not only Jakarta's problems, but also the problems in other regions.

"The role of the central government is crucial. We need to understand that 85 per cent of the provincial budget relies on the central government. Regulations related to development projects also depend on the central government."

One area which voters in the capital want the government to find solutions to is Jakarta's traffic congestion.

Experts have said the president will be in a better position to push through the clutter of overlapping responsibilities between the central and provincial government.

Dr Danang Parikesit, president of the Indonesian Transportation Society, said: "Jakarta alone cannot solve the problems. Not only are we dealing with Jakarta's local government but we are also dealing with the technical ministries, line ministries, finance ministry and putting all the resources together to solve the problem.

"So I think the chance of pushing the transport agenda in Jakarta is far greater when he is elected as president compared with now as the governor of Jakarta."

The chronic traffic situation is the most visible problem in the capital that the next president has to deal with.

As governor, Mr Widodo understands the complexity of the problem and the challenge to solving it. But he needs to convince voters in Jakarta to give him the mandate, and he has until July 9 to do so.

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