It was a rematch five years in the making. It included a grueling six-month official campaign, five presidential debates, countless campaign rallies, dirty tricks including on-line “black campaigning,” racial and religious tensions, and the constant specter of possible violence.
After all that, it took a mere 11 minutes on Wednesday afternoon to show that President Joko Widodo appeared to have won a second, five-year term by soundly beating Prabowo Subianto, a retired army general, who he had also defeated for the presidency in 2014.
Several independent polling firms conducting unofficial “quick counts,” which are taken from a small sample of polling stations across the far-flung country, indicated that President Joko had a lead of 10 percentage points, better than his 53- 47 percent victory five years ago. The quick counts conducted by those firms have been highly accurate in past elections. Indonesia’s General Elections Commission prohibited the media from reporting quick count results until 3pm local time, two hours after polls closed. By 3:11pm, the polling firms’ data indicated President Joko had won between 54 and 56
percent of the vote, quickly damaging hopes by Prabowo’s opposition coalition for victory.
But the million-dollar question is this: will Prabowo, a temperamental nationalist with a sketchy human rights record while in the military, and who is backed by hardline, occasionally violent Islamic groups, accept defeat? Just days before the election, Prabowo and his political allies warned of possible election fraud and threatened to send millions of protesters into the streets right after the election if there was any whiff of impropriety.
Official results from the elections commission will not be announced until May, which in the short-term could dramatically increase anxiety among the public, local businesses and foreign investors, and even damage the economy.
Every losing presidential ticket since Indonesia began holding direct presidential election in 2004 has contested the results, claiming voter fraud, but had their appeals rejected by Indonesia’s Constitutional Court, the final arbitrator of
But Prabowo is the only candidate who sent agitated protestors into the streets: a mob in 2014 clashed with riot police while attempting to storm the Constitutional Court building as justices inside were ruling to throw out the general’s voter fraud appeal.
In a possibly ominous sign, Prabowo’s campaign team released the results of an internally conducted exit poll – which unlike quick counts are not scientifically conducted – indicating that the former general was leading 55 percent to 43 percent, with 2 percent of voters declining to answer.
Prabowo told a press conference at his Jakarta residence on Wednesday evening that an internal quick count indicated him winning with 52 percent of the vote. He also claimed that his campaign “found” pre-marked ballots for President Joko, that ballots didn’t arrive at some polling places, and that some stations opened four hours late.
“There are efforts … to lead opinions as if we were defeated,” Prabowo said. “I say to my supporters: don’t get provoked, watch the polling stations.” Some analyst said on Wednesday that despite the Prabowo campaign’s bluster, it did not appear he was willing to go to drastic measures straight away, given the size of Joko’s apparent victory.
“Thus far, there are no signals indicating plans for unruly protests, nor any compelling reason to expect such a scenario,” said Kevin O’Rourke, editor in chief of Reformasi, a private circulation political and business intelligence e-newsletter.
Early unofficial quick counts from Indonesia’s House of Representatives race indicated a similar fragmented result as five years ago, with President Joko’s governing Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle leading with 22 percent of the vote, and Prabowo’s opposition Gerindra party running second with around 12 percent in a 14-party race.
The early results also indicated that the president’s governing coalition had surpassed the 50-percent threshold to retain control the House. It was the first time in Indonesian history that the presidential and national legislative elections were held on the same day.
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