Indonesia ruling party sides with presidential hopeful Prabowo: Media

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesia's ruling Democratic Party, headed by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, said on Monday it was backing presidential hopeful Prabowo Subianto ahead of next week's election, the media said.

The world's third-largest democracy is due to choose a new leader on July 9 in what recent polls show will be a tight race between former general Prabowo and Jakarta governor Joko "Jokowi" Widodo. "The Democratic Party has decided and instructed its members to fully support and vote for Prabowo... in the coming presidential election," said Mr Syarief Hasan, head of the party's daily operations, as reported by the Kompas website.

Mr Hasan spoke at an event attended by senior party members, including Dr Yudhoyono's son Edhie Baskoro Yudhoyono.

Support from the Democratic Party gives Mr Prabowo's coalition the majority of the total votes from April's nationwide parliamentary election, outweighing Mr Jokowi.

What is important is that the move also means Mr Prabowo's coalition looks similar to Dr Yudhoyono's incumbent ruling coalition, which in recent years has been hit by headline-grabbing corruption scandals and has been criticised for policy drift and indecisiveness.

The Democratic Party itself saw its support halve between 2009 and 2014 after its image was severely damaged by corruption cases involving senior members, including a Cabinet minister.

The party, which got only 10 per cent of votes in April, had initially decided to remain neutral, but changed its mind after support of senior members was divided between both candidates.