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Indonesian presidential hopeful Jokowi leaps ahead in opinion polls

Jakarta governor and presidential candidate Joko Widodo, of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), reacts during a party campa
Jakarta governor and presidential candidate Joko Widodo, of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), reacts during a party campa

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Already favourite to become Indonesia's next president, Jakarta governor Joko Widodo's popularity has surged since his candidacy for the July election was announced last month, according to the latest opinion polls.

Known locally as Jokowi, the Jakarta governor is widely regarded as a shoo-in for top job in the world's third-largest democracy.

Support for Jokowi leapt to 45 percent after his party named him as its candidate, from 35 percent before, according to a survey released Wednesday by Roy Morgan International.

The survey showed support for rival Prabowo Subianto, a former general, holding at 15 percent, while tycoon Aburizal Bakrie trailed with 11 percent.

The "Jokowi factor" has also boosted ratings for his party, the opposition Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI-P) led by former president Megawati Sukarnoputri, as it campaigns for a parliamentary poll due on April 9.

By nominating Jokowi, Megawati appeared to set aside her own ambitions in order to improve her party's chances of returning to power.

"As soon as his candidacy for the presidential race was announced, PDI-P's fortunes jumped from 27 to 37 percent," wrote Debnath Guharoy of Roy Morgan International. "The long race looks like it is well and truly over, even before it's begun."

Another survey released this week by the Center for Strategic and International Studies showed support for both Bakrie's Golkar and Prabowo's Gerindra parties dwindling to less than 20 percent.

Only parties that garner at least 25 percent of the national vote or 20 percent of seats in parliament can field candidates for the presidential election three months later.

In little over a year since becoming Jakarta's governor, Jokowi has earned a reputation for clean and effective governance. Ordinary Indonesians, used to a sleepy bureacracy run by an entrenched and often corrupt elite, like the common touch Jokowi demonstrates with his almost daily visits to low-income neighborhoods in the capital.

(Reporting by Kanupriya Kapoor; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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