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Election commission official Dedi Saidi, left, checks a document stating the number of votes collected in ballot boxes at Bendungan Hilir in Jakarta on Thursday. (BEAWIHARTA/REUTERS)
Election commission official Dedi Saidi, left, checks a document stating the number of votes collected in ballot boxes at Bendungan Hilir in Jakarta on Thursday. (BEAWIHARTA/REUTERS)

Questions about vote rigging raised in Indonesian presidential election Add to ...

Political tensions in Indonesia rose on Thursday, a day after the country’s hotly contested presidential election, as the supporters of the two candidates raised fears about possible cheating during days of vote tallying.

Official vote counts in the far-flung archipelago always take weeks, but usually winners become quickly apparent through so-called quick counts, in which independent polling firms tally ballots from a sampling of polling places nationwide. Although the most respected of those companies indicated that Joko Widodo, the populist governor of Jakarta, had a lead of 4 to 6 percentage points, his opponent’s campaign has suggested those companies are biased.

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The final vote tally must be announced no later than July 22.

On Thursday, Mr. Joko hardened his stance, saying unequivocally that he had won, rather than, as he said Wednesday, that he appeared to have won. In a meeting with reporters after a news conference, he advised his opponent, Prabowo Subianto, a former army general, to prepare to concede defeat.

Mr. Prabowo’s camp fired back, accusing Mr. Joko of trying to hijack the country’s democracy by declaring victory prematurely.

Mr. Prabowo’s campaign says he is winning and cited as evidence quick counts conducted by five polling firms that several analysts dismissed as being untested. According to those counts, the campaign says, Mr. Prabowo had an average lead of 2.5 percentage points.

The day’s political jockeying started with a news conference by Mr. Joko, who called on “Prabowo to be a gentleman and concede after the results are announced.”

A few hours later, Hashim Djojohadikusumo, Mr. Prabowo’s brother and chief adviser, met with foreign journalists across town and blasted Mr. Joko’s campaign for claiming likely victory only 95 minutes after polls had closed. At that time, the various quick counts had tabulated less than 30 per cent of the vote.

“The Prabowo camp feels this is highly irresponsible and provocative,” Mr. Hashim said. “Many of our supporters were quite angry.”

The stakes in the election are high, with Indonesians electing a new president for the first time in 10 years.

Voters could hardly have been given a starker choice, at least in terms of style. Mr. Joko, a former small-town mayor and furniture exporter, is known for frequent walkabouts to meet constituents in a country where most Indonesian politicians rule in a more aloof way.

Mr. Prabowo is more of an old-school Indonesian politician with a more patriarchal style who has pitched himself as the more decisive of the two candidates. He also has ties to the country’s authoritarian past, having served in the military during the rule of his father-in-law at the time, Suharto, the former long time Indonesian president.

Mr. Joko, by comparison, is of a new generation of politicians who was not on the political scene during Suharto’s tenure.

If the official results show a narrow margin of victory for either candidate, analysts said, it is likely that both of them would appeal some election results at the provincial and district levels to the Constitutional Court, increasing the amount of time Indonesia is left in political limbo. The court has the authority to order recounts as well as re-voting, if necessary.

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