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John Mcbeth, Senior Writer

Crossing rural-urban divide in Indonesia's presidential election

Published on Jun 13, 2014 11:32 AM
Supporters of presidential candidates Joko Widodo and Jusuf Kalla with banners and posters (left) in Bandung, West Java. Their rival Prabowo Subianto (right) is seen carrying an infant, also in Bandung. -- PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BLOOMBERG

If Jakarta is on nervous tenterhooks over the July 9 presidential election, the so-called "battleground" provinces of vote-rich Central and East Java, which will really decide the outcome of the race, appear to be in the middle of a ceasefire.

On a road trip from Yogyakarta to Surabaya, which took my companion and me north through Demak and the coastal cities of Kudus, Tuban and Rembang, we were struck by just how much voters were taking the country's third direct presidential election in their stride.

It is also clear that while Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P) candidate Joko Widodo enjoys widespread grassroots support, Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) rival Prabowo Subianto isn't allowing his rival to have everything his way. The polls reflect that.

But they don't explain the mix of factors that have made it a closer contest than anyone thought it would be, ranging from unspoken primordialism and lingering party loyalties to raw judgments about who will be the best leader.

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