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Politics

Jakartans head to polls to choose governor

Election seen as prelude to Indonesia's 2019 presidential campaign

JAKARTA -- Voters on Wednesday morning began choosing the Indonesian capital's next governor, in an election widely seen as an opening act for the presidential race slated for 2019.

The gubernatorial election pits Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, the incumbent reformist known as Ahok, against Agus Yudhoyono, a son of former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, and Anies Baswedan, a former education minister.

The polling stations close at 1 p.m. local time; the results will be announced at a later date. Several polls have indicated that none of the three candidates is likely to win a majority, meaning there could be a runoff between the top two candidates in April. 

The race for the governorship had the air of a presidential campaign, with the candidates drawing support from past presidents and influential politicians. The fast rise of President Joko Widodo explains why.

Widodo won Jakarta's previous gubernatorial election in 2012 -- in his first shot at the job. That victory spread his name nationwide and helped propel him to the presidency in 2014.

Purnama, who had been serving as vice governor, took the reins from Widodo. A Purnama victory would provide a tailwind for Widodo's administration, while defeat would be a blow to the government.

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