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Indonesian presidential candidates kick off campaigns


Campaigning officially began on Tuesday for Indonesia's election with two of the three presidential candidates launching their bids with public speeches ahead of next year's poll.

The February election will see defense minister and former special forces general Prabowo Subianto face former Central Java governor Ganjar Pranowo and former Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan to lead the Muslim-majority archipelago nation.

Nearly 205 million people are eligible to vote on February 14, with the winner set to succeed President Joko Widodo after he completes the maximum two terms ruling Southeast Asia's biggest economy.

Two candidates held opening campaign events on Tuesday, with frontrunner Subianto's closest rival Pranowo giving a speech in the eastern region of Papua.

"This election reminds us all, that there are regions that need our collective attention," he said in the town of Merauke. 

"This is the beginning of us moving together, the beginning of us working together, the beginning of us winning later," said Pranowo.

Subianto, 72, is increasing his margin of popularity over Pranowo, 55, according to a poll published this month by Indikator Politik Indonesia.

The third-time presidential candidate is now favored by 39.7 percent of voters to 30 percent for Pranowo, the poll showed, compared to 36.1 to 33.7 last month.

Baswedan, a popular figure with conservative Muslims and Islamists who has repeatedly finished third in polls, launched his campaign around the capital Jakarta.

"Let's push for a change. Please pray for our journey to be blessed with ease," the 54-year-old told a crowd in a slum in North Jakarta.

Local media reported Subianto's campaign would begin without him on Tuesday.

If no candidate obtains more than 50 percent of the first-round vote, a second-round run-off vote will be held between the top two in June.

The next president will be sworn into office in October 2024, the elections commission said.

(With input from AFP)

(Cover: Workers arrange folded ballot boxes, at a warehouse in Yogyakarta, November 3, 2023, ahead of the 2024 general elections. /CFP)

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