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Indonesia's Ganjar faces battle to overcome Jokowi's election betrayal

As a former governor from outside Indonesia's political and military elite, Ganjar Pranowo is banking on his populist appeal and folksy charm to stay in contention in the Feb 14 presidential election, where he is struggling to make a mark.

With a humble background and affable, man-of-the-people style strikingly similar to two-term President Joko Widodo, Ganjar was a shoo-in to succeed him, buoyed by the assumed backing of the wildly popular incumbent.

But his political clout is now crumbling after Widodo, better known as Jokowi, betrayed his own party and started tacitly campaigning for rival candidate and former military hard man Prabowo Subianto.

Ganjar now finds himself in a tricky spot, tied to a campaign and political vision shaped by Jokowi, but without his crucial support.

Ganjar has shrugged off Jokowi's overtures to Prabowo as "politics", responding by doubling down on the populist agenda that won him two terms as governor of Central Java, pledging to create 17 million new jobs, expand social welfare and boost higher education access for the poor if elected.

The silver-haired son of a policeman whose family ran a mom-and-pop store, the 55-year-old former student activist has served his province for two decades, with two terms each as a lawmaker and governor.

Ganjar built his reputation on pro-poor policies that slashed interest rates on micro-loans, helped farmers buy fertiliser and mandated civil servants to give 2.5 per cent of their monthly salaries to support health, education and disaster relief programmes.

But some issues have dented his track record, including a controversial call last year to stop Israel taking part in the Under-20 football World Cup, for which Indonesia was subsequently dropped as host.