Widodo Takes Lead in Indonesia Election Unofficial Tally

Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo led unofficial tallies for president of the world’s third-biggest democracy as opponent Prabowo Subianto declared himself the probable winner, raising the prospect of a contested result.

Widodo, known as Jokowi, had 53.3 percent of the vote to Prabowo’s 46.7 percent with 99.4 percent of ballots counted, according to Lingkaran Survei Indonesia, an organization conducting quick counts. Another quick count by Saiful Mujani & Research Consulting had Jokowi at 52.9 percent and Prabowo at 47.1 percent, on 99 percent counted. Both companies declared Jokowi the winner.

The unofficial tally would indicate the closest result since direct presidential elections began in Indonesia a decade ago, and the General Elections Commission said it expected turnout to be 75 percent, higher than the 72 percent seen in 2009. The country faces a period of uncertainty until official results due July 21-22, and possibly longer should the results be contested.

“Given the scale of the economic challenge confronting Indonesia’s new president, and the country’s domestic and external vulnerabilities, a divided nation is the worst possible outcome as far as the politics of economic reform are concerned,” said Nicholas Spiro, managing director of Spiro Sovereign Strategy in London. “If Widodo wins this election, as appears likely, he will conspicuously lack a strong mandate for reform.”

Small, celebratory rallies broke out across Jakarta among Jokowi supporters as the quick counts were released, with one crowd letting off fireworks in the capital’s main roundabout and carrying a rattan throne emblazoned with his picture.

Guarding Votes

A victory for Jokowi, 53, would cap a rapid ascent for the man who in 2005, as a furniture dealer with no political experience, ran for mayor of Solo in central Java and became governor of the capital in 2012. Prabowo, 62, an ex-special forces commando once married to dictator Suharto’s daughter, evoked his army days to promise decisive leadership if elected.

“Based on the quick count result from credible institutions that are used to doing surveys with accurate results, Jokowi-JK won,” Jokowi told reporters in Jakarta, referring to his running mate Jusuf Kalla. “This victory is not a victory of Jokowi-JK but a victory of all of the people of Indonesia. This victory is because of participation and not mobilization.”

The quick count tallies give Jokowi a lead of about 8-9 million votes, based on Bloomberg calculations.

Prabowo said other survey agencies showed his team -- his running mate is former coordinating minister for the economy Hatta Rajasa -- in the lead.

Jokowi Rallies

“We are grateful that all the information that’s coming in shows that Prabowo-Hatta gets support and a mandate,” Prabowo said a televised briefing in Jakarta. “We ask all members, supporters of the red-white coalition and all people to be on standby and guard this victory until the official count is completed by the KPU and after the official decision,” he said, referring to the elections commission.

“The quick counts normally reflect the actual result,” said Gangsar Surkrisno, 48, the head of a digital content company, who voted for Jokowi. “While I feel happy, I’m also worried because Prabowo hasn’t acknowledged that. I hope any party that loses is willing to accept defeat.”

Tackling Corruption

The election was a mammoth task in a country with about 190 million eligible voters spread across an archipelago that would stretch from New York to Alaska, with more than 900 inhabited islands. The elections commission deployed 4.1 million polling workers, more than the population of the city of Los Angeles.

Both candidates pledged to tackle corruption and improve infrastructure in the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation. With policies so similar, voters were picking between two distinct personalities in the race to succeed President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono when his decade in power ends in October and after growth slowed to its weakest in four years.

Jokowi had slightly widened his lead over Prabowo in recent opinion polls, buoying Indonesia’s financial markets which are betting he would be able to replicate nationally his success at streamlining business red tape in Jakarta. The benchmark stocks index closed yesterday at the highest level in seven weeks and the rupiah strengthened. Jakarta markets were closed today.

“Quick counts related to pro-Prabowo media outlets may continue to claim a very narrow Prabowo win -- conceivably this could serve as a rationale for an electoral dispute later,” said Kevin O’Rourke, a political analyst who wrote the book “Reformasi: The Struggle for Power in Post-Soeharto Indonesia.”

Losing Momentum

“Negative publicity for Prabowo, combined with Widodo’s final debate performance and increased social media activity, halted Prabowo’s momentum in the final week of campaigning,” he said.

Prabowo was fired from his army post in 1998 amid allegations of human rights abuses related to the detention of pro-democracy activists in the twilight of Suharto’s rule, and has come under scrutiny on whether he’d seek to reverse post-Suharto reforms such as direct elections. On June 28 he questioned if the political system fits the country’s culture, though he later said he believes in democracy.

Voting first took place in the eastern Papua region, where ballots in mountain villages can sometimes be cast in open woven baskets for all to see, said Andrew Thornley, Jakarta-based program director for elections at non-profit development organization The Asia Foundation.

Populist Platforms

Organizers in remote areas carried ballots by boat, on horseback or foot through mountains, said Ferry Kurnia, an elections commissioner. The most challenging areas, prone to spoiled ballots, disputes or fraud, include Papua, the Maluku or Spice Islands, and northern Sumatra, he said. The commission dismissed more than 200 organizers for not following procedures, Kurnia said.

Whoever wins will face challenges both at home and abroad. They will need to provide jobs and education to a growing population in Asia’s fifth-largest economy at time when demand for its commodities such as coal and palm oil has slowed. They will also face increasingly complicated regional relations, including territorial disputes with China that are simmering on its doorstep in the South China Sea.

Both candidates campaigned on populist platforms, promising to spark growth, reduce poverty, boost education, build infrastructure and help farmers. Jokowi has said he’ll improve regulations to attract investment and cut red tape. Prabowo wants to raise more money from capital markets and tax, as well as spur economic expansion by increasing borrowing.

‘Magic Wand’

Still, for many voters the decision was based more on personality than policy. Prabowo, with his ties to Suharto and who is the son of a former Cabinet minister, is a product of the aristocracy that has run Indonesia since independence from the Dutch. Though having never held elected office, Prabowo campaigned as a leader who will get things done.

Jokowi represents a move away from political dynasties. He’s a self-made businessman from a middle class family who as governor of Jakarta built a reputation as a reformer who focuses on bread and butter issues such as health care and transport.

Investors would probably prefer a Jokowi win, Miles Remington, head of equities for Indonesia at BNP Paribas SA, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television in Jakarta today.

“He’s seen as someone who would bring something new to the table,” Remington said. Even so, whoever wins will “face the same problems, it’s not as if one has a magic wand and will make everything go away. The economy needs to turn around.”

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