Indonesian President Joko Widodo appeared set for a second term as “quick count” results from Wednesday’s election rolled in, but his challenger claimed that he had won the popular vote and urged supporters not to let this victory be snatched away.
Data from private pollsters based on counts of vote samples were in line with opinion polls that had predicted a win for Widodo, a former furniture businessman and low-key reformist.
They showed him winning the popular vote with about 54%, with a lead of between 7.1 and 11.6 percentage points over former general, who was narrowly defeated when he took Widodo on in the last election five years ago.
Prabowo, a former son-in-law of military strongman Suharto who was overthrown in 1998, told a news conference that – based on internal exit polls and “quick count” numbers – his campaign believed his share of the vote was in a 52-54% range.
“We have noted several incidents that have harmed the supporters of this ticket,” he said, without giving detail. “Our volunteers should focus on safeguarding the ballot boxes because they are key to our victory.” Widodo said the results indicated he had regained the presidency of the world’s fourth-most-populous nation, but urged supporters to wait for the election commission to announce official results.
Kevin O’Rourke, a political analyst and author of the Indonesia-focused newsletter Reformasi Weekly, said that Widodo’s re-election was now clear but his victory over 67-year-old Prabowo was not resounding. “He failed to attain the psychological 60% level that had seemed within reach,” O’Rourke said. “Prabowo performed better than expected, which may embolden him to run yet again in2024, if he is sufficiently fit.”
Widodo grew up in a riverside slum and was the first national leader to come from outside the political and military elite.
Popularly known as Jokowi, his everyman image resonated in 2014 with voters tired of the old guard. The eight-hour vote on Wednesday for both the presidency and legislature seats across a country that stretches more than5,000 km (3,000 miles) from its western to eastern tips was both a Herculean logistical feat and testimony to the resilience of democracy two decades after authoritarianism was defeated.
The poll followed a campaign dominated by economic issues but was also marked by the growing influence of conservative Islam in the world’s biggest Muslim-majority nation.
A senior government official close to the president said before the election that a win for Widodo with 52-55% of the vote would be a “sweet spot”, and enough of a mandate to press on with, and even accelerate, reforms.