Indonesia's presidential election came into sharp focus Monday with the leading contender naming a popular former vice president as running mate and the country's second-largest party unexpectedly backing the main challenger.
Leading presidential candidate Joko Widodo, who is widely known as Jokowi, announced Monday that he has asked Yusuf Kalla to run with him on the July ballot.
"After lots of deep thoughts and after several consultations and considerations with the chairmen of the supporting parties, PDIP, NASDEM Party, PKB Party and Hanura Party, especially [former president] Megawati Sukarnoputri’s consideration, last night we decided to nominate Mr. Mohammad Jusuf Kalla to be my running mate as a vice president candidate," said Widodo.
Kalla told reporters he is eager to get to work. "I want to convey my gratitude for the support that was given to me. And I’d like to state that with all my heart, I’m ready to be the running mate of Joko Widodo as vice president with hard-work initiatives. Hopefully we all would be successful for the greatness and prosperity of our country," he said.
Kalla hails from the Golkar Party, which decided Monday to back Jokowi's only rival for the presidency, former General Prabowo Subianto. The move comes despite signs late last week that the party was preparing to back Jokowi.
Jokowi has been leading national opinion polls ahead of the July 9 election.
Subianto had announced his running mate would be current economics minister Hatta Rajasa. Subianto is a former son-in-law of ex-dictator Suharto and has been accused of human rights abuses in East Timor in the 1980s.
Indonesia has Southeast Asia's largest economy. Jokowi's decision to chose Kalla as his running mate is seen helping to bring strong business credentials to his presidential ticket..
This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Indonesian service.