Indonesian presidential candidate declares victory, opponent says not so fast
Willie Grace | 7/10/2014, 6:11 p.m. | Updated on 7/10/2014, 6:11 p.m.
Hours after voting ended in Indonesia's presidential race, candidate Joko "Jokowi" Widodo proclaimed victory while his rival Prabowo Subianto urged patience as the official vote count proceeded.
Results of an unofficial quick count on Wednesday indicated a slight edge for Widodo, a former furniture exporter who rose to become Jakarta governor, ahead of Prabowo, a former military man.
"Today, Indonesia's new son has been chosen by the people," Widodo declared. "We begin a new phase in our history and we start a new beginning of Indonesia."
Widodo's leap from relative obscurity to potential leader of the world's most populous Muslim nation has drawn comparisons to U.S. President Barack Obama's meteoric rise in 2008. For his supporters, the "Jokowi effect" heralds a new breed of political leaders -- a break from Indonesia's tradition of leaders with military, bureaucratic or elite backgrounds.
"It's not a victory for the party, not a victory for the team but this is a victory for all Indonesian people," Widodo told his supporters, dressed in his trademark checkered shirt.
Independent pollsters indicated about 52-53% of votes for Widodo and 46-48% for Prabowo. These unofficial quick counts, drawn from samples from polling stations, have usually been accurate to within a 1-2% margin of error.
But unlike previous Indonesian elections, this presidential race is a tight one.
"By most standards of democracies that we know, a vote spread of five to six percentage points would be seen as decisive. In the Indonesian context, this is pretty close," said Thomas Pepinsky, associate professor at Cornell University, who has an interest in South Asia.
On Wednesday night, Prabowo suggested he wasn't fazed by the quick count results.
"Let's allow KPU (Indonesia's election commission) to work and decide the victory," the candidate told his supporters.
"Despite the results we received from a number of quick count(s)... the real count says that we are higher than our competitor."
Prabowo, a former son-in-law of Indonesian president Suharto, has sought to project an image as a take-charge leader. Having never served in public office, the former lieutenant general has campaigned hard on his military service.
"We will be patient, be polite," he told supporters. "But don't ever think that we are weak. Don't ever think that we can easily be intimidated."
Millions of Indonesian voters cast their paper ballots Wednesday. These ballots will be counted at a local district level, then recounted at national level.
The entire process is expected to take two to three weeks.
Widodo told his supporters in Jakarta, "Our job is to guard and ensure that the count by the election commission is conducted in a proper, honest, clean way, free of any manipulation."
The next president will be inaugurated on October 20.
Indonesian voters have grappled with concerns over a sluggish economic growth, increasing violence against religious minorities and government corruption.
The next president needs to "make a strong push to rein in corruption that plagues Indonesia's economy and make it a suitable place for domestic and international investments," said Pepinsky.
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