Indonesia’s Prabowo keeps narrow lead in survey on presidential contenders

By Ananda Teresia and Stanley Widianto

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesian presidential contender Prabowo Subianto topped a second opinion poll in the space of two days on Friday, though still ahead of the ruling party’s Ganjar Pranowo by only a narrow margin as election season kicks off in earnest.

The former special forces commander Prabowo has yet to register for the February election that will decide who will lead Southeast Asia’s biggest economy and succeed the popular Joko Widodo when his second and final term ends next year.

An Oct. 2-10 survey by pollster Indikator Politik released on Friday showed defence minister Prabowo backed by 37% of the 4,300 respondents, with former Central Java governor Ganjar on 34.5% and ex-Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan on 21.9%. Nearly 7% were undecided.

A poll of 1,620 Indonesians from Oct. 2-8, released on Thursday by Lembaga Survei Indonesia had a similar outcome, with Prabowo also at 37%, Ganjar on 35.2% and Anies on 22.7%.

Jokowi, as the president is known, this week said he had no involvement with candidates, but political insiders have said the outgoing leader wants to retain influence and has covertly marshalled support for Prabowo, having earlier appeared to have backed Ganjar, the candidate of his PDI-P party.

Prabowo’s lead, which he has held in most polls this year, is because about 30% of Jokowi’s supporters would vote for him, according to Indikator analyst Burhanuddin Muhtadi.

“Prabowo is a middle candidate I would say. Because he secured support from his loyalists and Widodo’s loyalists,” he told a press conference, citing data, without elaborating.

The world’s third-largest democracy will hold presidential and legislative elections on Feb. 14, with nearly 205 million eligible voters, most of whom are under 30.

Ganjar and Anies, both 54, signed up for the race along with their running mates on Thursday on the opening day of registration. Prabowo, 72, on Friday told reporters he would register next week.

Another factor that could impact Prabowo’s campaign is his choice of running mate, with speculation rife that Jokowi’s son, Gibran Rakabuming Raka, 36, will join his ticket, allowing him potentially to tap into new voter territory.

There has been some controversy this week over Gibran, however, after the Constitutional Court ruled that a minimum age requirement of 40 need not apply to all candidates, effectively giving the Surakarta mayor a green light to run.

That ruling came after the latest polls were conducted.

Indikator’s Burhanuddin said Prabowo electability might rise further with Gibran in tandem.

“Gibran could be a secret weapon but the question is how much?” he said.

(Reporting by Ananda Teresia and Stanley Widianto; Editing by Martin Petty)