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Indonesia in final stretch ahead of world's biggest single-day election

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Worker carries a ballot box at a distribution centre in Jakarta, Indonesia, Feb. 13. (REUTERS photo)

Worker carries a ballot box at a distribution centre in Jakarta, Indonesia, Feb. 13. (REUTERS photo)

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesian authorities were making final preparations ahead of Wednesday's election, with around 25,000 police set to ensure security in a contest seen as a test of democratic gains made since the end of authoritarian rule 25 years ago.

A worker carries a ballot box for distribution to polling stations at a distribution centre ahead of the presidential election in Jakarta, Indonesia, February 13, 2024. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-HoonA worker carries a ballot box for distribution to polling stations at a distribution centre ahead of the presidential election in Jakarta, Indonesia, February 13, 2024. (REUTERS photo)

Outgoing President Joko Widodo has presided over steady growth and relative stability in the past decade in the mineral-rich Group of 20 economy of 270 million people, establishing it as a future base for multinationals in the electric vehicle supply chain.

A worker carries a ballot box for distribution to polling stations at a distribution center ahead of the presidential election in Jakarta, Indonesia, February 13, 2024. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-HoonA worker carries a ballot box for distribution to polling stations at a distribution center ahead of the presidential election in Jakarta, Indonesia, February 13, 2024. (REUTERS photo)

Still, Widodo, who is widely known as Jokowi, has in the run-up to the Feb. 14 presidential election faced criticism over his perceived political meddling and push to establish a political dynasty.

He has not explicitly endorsed any of the three presidential candidates but has made highly publicised appearances with controversial former special forces commander Prabowo Subianto, and his eldest son is running on the same ticket for vice president.

Two opinion surveys last week projected Defence Minister Prabowo, who is making his third run to be president, could secure more than 50% of the votes on Wednesday, allowing him to win in a single round. Rivals Anies Baswedan and Ganjar Pranowo were seen at least 27 and 31 points behind him respectively.

Indonesia has entered a cooling-off period until voting day, with candidates barred from campaigning.

Running an election is a gargantuan task in Indonesia. The archipelago of more than 17,000 islands stretches across three times zones and a distance similar to across the United States.

Election officials have delivered ballot boxes and papers to far-flung regions, in some cases travelling hours by boat, helicopter or ox-drawn carts.

The weather agency has warned about the risk of extreme weather in West Java on polling day, media reported. Meanwhile, the election commission has postponed voting in ten villages in the Karanganyar district in Central Java due to flooding.

Anti-government protesters with banners denouncing Indonesia's outgoing President Joko Widodo march during a rally demanding a fair election, outside the Indonesian Parliament in Jakarta, Indonesia, February 12, 2024.  REUTERS/Kim Kyung-HoonAnti-government protesters with banners denouncing Indonesia's outgoing President Joko Widodo march during a rally demanding a fair election, outside the Indonesian Parliament in Jakarta, Indonesia, February 12, 2024. (REUTERS photo)

Jokowi's tacit backing of Prabowo has led to accusations he has flouted election rules, which he rejects.

In Indonesia, sitting presidents can campaign for candidates providing they do not use state resources and must take official leave to do so. Incumbents have typically been neutral.

The presidential office has denied political meddling by Jokowi.

Hundreds of students held noisy street protests on Monday to protest against what they see as democratic backsliding under Jokowi, a former furniture salesman who seemed to offer a clean break from the military and political elite.

In 1998, huge student protests fuelled unrest that led to the fall of former strongman leader Suharto and helped usher in democracy.