INDONESIA kicks off presidential race as currency slumps. Campaigning for Indonesia's  presidential election in April kicked off Sunday, putting incumbent Joko Wododo against a former military general in the race to lead the world's third-biggest democracy.

Opinion polls show Widodo, whose  down-to-earth  style and ambitious infrastructure drive have made him popular with many Indonesians, well ahead of his main challenger Prabowo Subianto.

But his bid for a  second term is facing headwinds  over his economic record, with the Indonesian rupiah sitting at two-decades lows, and fears of  fake news  campaign intended to disrupt his re-election

Some 185 million voters in the world's largest Muslim majority country are expected to go to the polls on April 17, in an election which will, also decide members of local and national parliaments.

Both leaders - dressed  in traditional Indonesian folk costumes, attended an official campaign launch in central Jakarta Sunday morning, in which they pledged to run a peaceful contest free from hoaxes and politicisation of ethnicity and religion.

Many Indonesians will be keen to avoid a repeat of the Jakarta gubernatorial elections in 2017, which were marked by massive street demonstrations led by hardline Muslims opposed to the capital's former governor who is ethnic Chinese and a Christian.

Analysts say campaigning is likely to focus on the economy, inequality, identity politics and rising intolerance across the sprawling Southeast Asian archipelago. [Agencies]


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