JAKARTA, Jan 8 (Reuters) - Jakarta's hugely popular governor, Joko Widodo, looks unstoppable as the man to be Indonesia's next president, according to an opinion poll published on Wednesday, which showed him four times more popular than his closest rival.
The snag is that neither Widodo, popularly known as Jokowi, nor the party he is allied to have said whether he will even run in July's presidential election.
The major opposition PDI-P party is agonising over whether to pick as their candidate the man who was a political unknown little more than a year ago.
The poll for the major daily Kompas, taken in December, gave the Jakarta governor 43.5 percent of the vote, far ahead of his nearest competitor and former frontrunner, ex-general Prabowo Subianto, whose rating dropped to 11.1 percent from 15.1. Jokowi's rating had jumped 11 percentage points.
The election comes at a critical time for Southeast Asia's biggest economy, whose years of financial boom have started to stumble in the face of weak global prices for its natural resource exports. There is also growing disenchantment among foreign investors over murky government policies, a corrupt court system and a barely functioning infrastructure.
Many economists say investors are likely to hold back until it is clear who will be the new leader once President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's second five-year term ends.
Yudhoyono, under increasing criticism for lacklustre management of the world's fourth most populous nation, is barred by the constitution from running for a third term.
Only two other serious candidates saw their ratings rise in the latest poll. One was wealthy businessman Aburizal Bakrie, who heads the leading Golkar Party.
The other, more surprisingly, was a near doubling in the popularity - to 6.3 percent - of another ex-general, Wiranto. Like Prabowo, he owes his rise to prominence to the support of long-serving iron ruler Suharto who was forced to quit in 1998.
The poll offered no explanation for the changes, but Wiranto's jump comes after he chose the country's most powerful media magnate as running mate.
The Kompas poll did not cover parties which compete in April's parliamentary election that will play the key role in deciding who can run for president.
A party, or alliance of parties, must win at least 25 percent of the vote in the parliamentary election or 20 percent of the seats to be allowed to nominate a presidential candidate for the July race. However, that rule is being challenged in the Constitutional Court to lower the threshold.
According to some recent polls, only the PDI-P, which is linked to Widodo, and Bakrie's Golkar party will come even close to meeting the current requirements.
The PDI-P refuses to be say who it wants for its candidate. Some analysts speculate that party chief Megawati Sukarnoputri has not given up hope of finally being elected to the palace.
She was president from 2001-2004, but only because her predecessor was impeached and has lost all three elections that she contested. Questions have been raised, however, of Widodo's lack of experience on the national political stage.
"Right now, we want to focus on the legislative elections, not on the presidential one. Of course, as a party we have to consider the results of the surveys. But in a country like Indonesia, we also need to consider the capacity of any leader to solve the nation's problems," Hasto Kristianto, PDI-P vice secretary general told Reuters. (Reporting by Jonathan Thatcher and Kanupriya Kapoor; Editing by Ron Popeski)
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