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Indonesian Election Tie-Up As Both Candidates Claim Victory

Michelle Toh |
July 15, 2014 | 2:43 a.m. PDT

Assistant News Editor

Jakarta governor Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has declared victory in last week's presidential election. So has his opponent, Prabowo Subianto. (Hendrik Mintarno/Creative Commons)
Jakarta governor Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has declared victory in last week's presidential election. So has his opponent, Prabowo Subianto. (Hendrik Mintarno/Creative Commons)
In a week's time, Indonesian officials will release the results of last week's presidential election that saw a turnout of 142.5 million voters and is the nation's closest in history, according to the election commission's projection.

The vote in the world's largest Muslim nation has been contested by both camps of Jakarta's current governor Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and former army general Prabowo Subianto, two men seen as dramatically different candidates.

A quick count from unofficial polls suggest Jokowi as the winner, with a lead of two to six percentage points.

"Indonesians faced a clear choice between a candidate who represents the future and one who is a throwback to the past, between strengthening democracy and returning to authoritarianism," one pundit wrote.

Subianto, the former son-in-law of authoritarian President Suharto, has attempted to revise his image in recent years to that of a populist leader, saying in an Al Jazeera interview last year that he was "one of the first generals in Indonesia who espoused civilian supremacy."

In an alarming twist set against a still-young democracy - this is only Indonesia's third time direct-electing a president - both candidates have already claimed victory. 

The preliminary results have convinced the powerful Golkar Party to announce its support for him, should he emerge as the winner.

Until now, the Golkar Party, second-largest in the nation, has backed Subianto, highlighting another monumental swing in the contested run-off. Currently, it holds 14 percent of parliamentary seats, the second-highest proportion that would afford Jokowi the majority necessary to push through legislative reform, according to Sujadi Siswo, Chanel News Asia's Southeast Asia correspondent.

Should the party switch allegiances, there is a "high chance also that one or two small parties may follow suit," Siswo added. 

The chances of Golkar sticking with its original candidate are looking increasingly slim, with a faction in the party rejecting on Tuesday the signing of a permanent coalition agreement with Subianto. Officials said it would defy the party's constitution.

The election has led to a greater emphasis on policy issues, Kevin Evans, an Indonesian election critic told the Wall Street Journal. "Tight people are going to be focusing on every single mistake to say, ‘Is this systemic, is this on a massive scale or is this simply a local screw up?’" he said.

The vote count is being handled by the Election Commission and, if continued to be contested, will be heard in a constitutional court, two systems riddled with questionable credibility. The Commission has been hit with graft charges in the past, and former Chief Justice Akil Mochtar was found guilty for graft and money laundering, Bloomberg reported.

A spokesman for Subianto said they "respect the KPU process and are optimistic about the result," but Subianto told the Wall Street Journal Sunday that his campaign team is collecting evidence of election fraud, a threat he addressed in the same Al Jazeera interview last year. Vote buying and “ghost voters” were common, he said.

“People who have died many years ago, they’re still there. Five-year-old kids, they’re still there. You have names that come up maybe 30 times, the same name, with different addresses. So this type of fraud is very prevalent," said Subianto.

Meanwhile, Jokowi called for a close eye on the tally, saying, "I think now it’s time for us to guard the counting, from the lowest level to the highest, so that it’s clean and honest and there’s no intervention. We ask for the people of Indonesia to guard the purity of the people’s aspiration, and so that nobody can try to stain what people have voted for."

Both men received their share of criticism during the campaign. There have been doubts about the soft-spoken Jokowi's ability to lead the nation, who has no national experience and only served as governor for less than two years.

But for a disillusioned electorate, this is where his appeal lies. He is seen as untainted by "the often corrupt military and business elite which has run the country for decades," the AP reported.

People have questioned how Subianto, who is blacklisted from the U.S. for his alleged human rights abuses, is expected to represent Indonesia internationally.

Asked about this in an interview, he said, "Well, Nelson Mandela was blacklisted. Many were blacklisted. It’s part of the defamation campaign." 

He added that his "respect of human rights" has been the reason for his popularity.

Subianto has been questioned for his role in the East Timor kidnapping and torture of 23 pro-democracy activists and a 1983 massacre that saw the death of 55 villagers in the country. After a formal inquiry by the government in 2006, he was discharged from the military.

This is Subianto's third general election, and, if the preliminary results are correct, the third time he has been rejected by voters.

Reach Assistant News Editor Michelle Toh here.



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