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Indonesia votes in divisive presidential election

Update: July, 09/2014 - 10:00

JAKARTA  — Indonesians voted on Wednesday in the tightest and most divisive presidential election since the downfall of Suharto, pitting Jakarta governor Joko Widodo against Prabowo Subianto, an ex-general.

After a bitterly fought campaign that saw long-time favourite Widodo's lead shrink dramatically, voters in the world's third-biggest democracy must choose between two starkly different candidates.

A former furniture exporter from a humble background, Widodo is the first serious presidential contender without links to the authoritarian past, who is seen as likely to usher in a new style of leadership and consolidate democracy.

Prabowo, a former son-in-law of Suharto who has admitted ordering the abduction of democracy activists before the strongman's downfall in 1998, has won support with promises of firm leadership in a country where many yearn for a strong figurehead.

Most polling stations in the country's easternmost province of Papua opened at 7am (2200 GMT Tuesday) as scheduled, but days of heavy rain and winds have left dozens of remote areas awaiting ballot boxes and papers, officials said. Katharina Utomo, 38, was the first to vote at a small polling station in Papua, weary-eyed from watching a World Cup match in the early hours.

"I voted for Jokowi because I think he's made himself close to the people and he also came here to Papua to campaign," said Utomo, a housewife.

As the sun rose over the capital, Jakarta, police were carrying out security checks at a park in the city centre, near where Widodo is expected to cast his vote in front of supporters. — AFP

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