JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesian presidential favorite Joko Widodo chose former Vice President Jusuf Kalla as his running mate on Monday, making up a formidable ticket in July's elections in Southeast Asia's largest economy.
Opinion polls show a Widodo-Kalla partnership coming out comfortably on top in elections scheduled for July 9. The pair is supported by a strong and relatively small coalition of political parties, raising the prospect of stable and efficient government that might be able to push through economic reforms and tackle corruption.
"We have confidence, God willing, we will be able to bring change to our beloved country," said Widodo, known across the country as "Jokowi," as he stood next to the 72-year-old Kalla while making the announcement at a historic building in downtown Jakarta.
They then hopped on bicycles and pedaled to the nearby Election Commission to register their nomination.
Kalla, 72, was vice president under former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono during his first term of 1999-2004, when he gained a reputation as a leader who can cut through bureaucracy and get things done. A native of South Sulawesi province in eastern Indonesia and successful businessmen, he is currently chairman of the Indonesian Red Cross.
Kalla's experience and reputation should provide a boost to Widodo, given his newness to national politics. A former furniture salesman who dresses simply, 52-year-old "Jokowi" was elected Jakarta governor in 2012 but cut short his term to run for president.
Kalla hails from the Golkar party, the second-biggest political party behind Widodo's Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle. Running mates in Indonesia typically are not from the same party.
The pair will be competing against former army Gen. Prabowo Subianto, a nationalist linked to human rights abuses going back to the turmoil that led to the ouster of former dictator Suharto in 1998. He has indicated he will choose former economic minister Hatta Rajasa as his running mate.
Opinions have shown support for Subianto running some 12 percentage points below Widodo, seen by many as a break from typical Indonesian politicians who tend to be either former army generals or tycoons.
Political analyst Yunarto Wijaya said Widodo's party chose Kalla based on a close reading of opinion polls.
"It was the most realistic choice," he said. "All the surveys showed the electability was the highest."
Golkar has yet to say whether it will formally endorse the pairing, but Kalla's appearance on the ticket is expected to win over at least some of their loyalists, especially in eastern Indonesia.
Like most candidates and political parties, Widodo has not given many details on what policies he intends to unveil to tackle Indonesia's pressing problems, including cooling economic growth, massive infrastructure challenges and deeply ingrained corruption. As Jakarta governor he won plaudits for trying to tackle traffic congestion and flooding, while he opposed a big hike to the city's minimum wage, upsetting unions.