World Bulletin / News Desk
Both candidates claimed victory in Indonesia's presidential election on Wednesday, suggesting there could be a drawn out constitutional battle to decide who will next lead the world's third-largest democracy.
Just a few hours after voting closed, Jakarta governor Joko "Jokowi" Widodo said he had won, based on what are widely seen as independent quick counts of more than 90 percent of the votes. A victory for him would be seen as a triumph for a new breed of politician that has emerged in Southeast Asia's biggest economy, and increase the promise of reform in government.
But ex-general Prabowo Subianto, the rival candidate seen as a representative of the old guard that flourished under decades of autocratic rule, pointed to a quick count by other pollsters naming him the winner.
He did not name the pollsters but a check by Reuters of eight agencies tallying the votes showed two put him ahead by between 1-2 percentage points. The other six showed a Jokowi win by around five percentage points.
The quick counts are conducted by private agencies which collate vote tallies as they come out of each district. The results are not official, but quick counts by three non-partisan pollsters - CSIS, Kompas and Saifulmujani - showed a Jokowi win. Their predictions were accurate in the April presidential elections.
The Election Commission will take about two weeks to declare the results officially and the new president is not due to take office until Oct. 1.
Ahead of the vote, the two candidates had been neck and neck in opinion polls as Jokowi lost a huge early lead in the face of smear campaigns and a far more focused, and expensive, race for the presidency by his rival.
"We are thankful that according to the quick count announcements, until now, they show that Jokowi-JK at this moment in the count have won," Jokowi told reporters and jubilant supporters in south Jakarta. JK refers to his running mate Jusuf Kalla, who was a vice president in the first term of outgoing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
His rival Prabowo countered about an hour later with the same claim.
There have been concerns of violence once the result is known, a worry alluded to by outgoing President Yudhoyono when he urged both sides to accept the result. But there were no reports of any violence during the voting and in the early hours of counting.
It has been the dirtiest and most confrontational campaign in memory in a country which traditionally holds up the value of consensus politics.
After the official result is declared, candidates can challenge the results in the Constitutional Court, the final arbiter over contested polls.
The Court's reputation has been badly tarnished after its chief was sentenced to jail for life this month for corruption.
The government declared Wednesday a public holiday and markets were closed although the rupiah currency hit a seven-week high against the dollar in offshore markets on Jokowi's victory claim.
His clean image is seen likely to bring in more foreign investment as he seeks to correct Indonesia's reputation of widespread corruption.
But any euphoria in the market could quickly evaporate if the stalemate over the result is not quickly resolved.
"This is one of the most important elections in Indonesia's reformation history," Bernard Wanandi, 37, said at a polling station in Menteng, a Jakarta suburb. "As a young generation, we have high expectations of the new leader, hoping he will bring the country forward and change the country tremendously."
It is a sentiment both candidates have addressed in their campaigns, though they offer starkly different personalities.
Jokowi, 53 and born into poverty, has stormed his way to the top rungs of leadership with a clean image and a reputation for competence in local government, a reversal of the autocracy, corruption and power politics that have weighed down Southeast Asia's biggest economy for decades.
Considered Indonesia's most popular politician, Jokowi's once insurmountable lead in opinion polls all but disappeared in recent weeks in the face of smear campaigns and expensive and intensely focused electioneering by Prabowo.
Prabowo, 62, ran on the promise of strong, tough leadership, playing up his military past and invoking memories of Indonesia's post-colonial and fiercely nationalist first president Sukarno, who ruled from 1945-67.
Prabowo's high-profile military career, during which he rose speedily through the ranks, unravelled quickly after the 1998 fall of long-serving autocrat Suharto, his former father-in-law.
"I just voted for Prabowo because I've been promised by his party they will pay for my children's education. I personally like him because he is the former son-in-law of Suharto," said housewife Titi Rahayati, 49, in the West Java city of Tasikmalaya.
West Java, the most populous province with a fifth of the total vote, could decide the presidential race.
Polls ahead of the election showed that Prabowo, who has the backing of three major Islamic-based parties, leads in the province.
Prabowo was discharged from the army for breaking the chain of command and ordering troops to arrest activists. He was never investigated on any criminal charge and has consistently denied wrongdoing.
The election will mark the first time a directly elected president hands over the reins to another. Outgoing President Yudhoyono, who has largely disappointed in recent years, must step down in October after serving two terms.
The election commission expects a high turnout. Of 190 million eligible voters, around 11 percent will be punching the ballot for the first time. Close to a third are under 30.
A Prabowo win is expected to weaken markets due to concerns he will introduce protectionist policies in the financial and farm sectors, and launch big debt-funded spending projects.
"I hope the new leader will be better than the past and doesn't make empty promises," said Nunu, 54, in Menteng. "In the past they never fulfilled any promises."Güncelleme Tarihi: 09 Temmuz 2014, 13:05