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 per cent 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 seven agencies tallying the votes showed two put him ahead by between one and two percentage points. The other five showed a Jokowi win by around five percentage points.
The quick counts are conducted by private agencies that 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.
A senior aide to Jokowi said the party would not take any action like naming a cabinet until the official result is announced on or around July 22. “We’ve waited months. We can wait another two to three weeks for the [Election Commission’s] final verdict,” Luhut Panjaitan told Reuters.
The standoff is unprecedented in Indonesia, which is holding only its third direct presidential election. In both the previous elections, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, now the outgoing president, won by a clear margin.
There have been concerns of violence once the result is known, a worry alluded to by 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.
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 Yudhoyono’s first term.
His rival, Prabowo, countered about an hour later with the same claim.
“[The quick counts] show that we, Prabowo-Hatta, have received the support and mandate from the people of Indonesia,” he told a rally in the capital, referring to his running mate Hatta Rajasa.
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.
“There have always been challenges … So we could end up with delayed certainty for a few weeks,” Douglas Ramage, a Jakarta-based political analyst told Reuters.
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