Indonesians Go to Polls in World's Biggest One-Day Election

Remigio Civitarese
Апреля 17, 2019

Incumbent President Joko Widodo waits as officials inspect ballot papers before voting at a polling center during the presidential and legislative election in Jakarta on April 17, 2019.

The eight-hour vote across a country that stretches more than 5,000 km (3,000 miles) from its western to eastern tips is both a Herculean logistical feat and testimony to the resilience of democracy two decades after authoritarianism was defeated.

The presidential race is a choice between five more years of the steady progress achieved under Indonesia's first president from outside the Jakarta elite, Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, or electing Prabowo Subianto, a former general from the era of the Suharto military dictatorship.

The economy dominated the hard-fought campaign, though the rise of political Islam loomed over the contest in the world's most populous Muslim-majority country.

In Glodok, an area in Jakarta known as an enclave for ethnic minority Chinese Indonesian enclave, some voters had been waiting to vote since 6:30 a.m., half an hour before polls opened.

Two speedboats have been deployed as mobile polling stations for residents on the Thousand Islands chain north of Jakarta.

More than 10,000 volunteers will crowd-source election results posted at polling stations in a real-time bid to thwart attempts at fraud.

However, even before the election, the opposition alleged voter-list irregularities that it said could affect millions and vowed legal or "people power" action if its concerns were ignored.

A senior government official close to the president said before the election that a win for Widodo with 52-55 per cent of the vote would be a "sweet spot", and enough of a mandate to press on with, and even accelerate, reforms. A decision will be taken by the elections commission.

In mountain-ringed Bandung city, flooding didn't stop people from wading through knee-deep water to cast a ballot or turning up at polling stations on inflated tyre inner tubes.

"Should Prabowo win, this would literally be the end of opinion polling in Indonesia. and a major, major upset", said Marcus Mietzner, associate professor at Australian National University. "The question is what the margin of victory will be", he said, predicting Widodo's re-election.

Poll-related hashtags trended on Twitter in Indonesia during a three-day quiet period in the run-up to voting day.

Social media users compared the presidential race to the HBO series "Game of Thrones" - with one online meme showing Widodo sitting on its coveted Iron Throne.

Leading in the polls, President Joko Widodo, 57, has pointed to his ambitious drive to build much-needed roads, airports and other infrastructure across Southeast Asia's largest economy.

Widodo, a moderate Muslim from Java island, had to burnish his Islamic credentials after smear campaigns and hoax stories accused him of being anti-Islam, a communist or too close to China, all politically damaging in Indonesia.

A quick count from the survey institute Litbang Kompas, based on a sample of nearly 75% of votes, placed the president, better known by his nickname "Jokowi", and his running mate, the Islamic cleric Ma'ruf Amin, with 54.19% of the vote, and Prabowo and the former investment manager Sandiaga Uno with 45.81%.

Prabowo, a former special forces commander who has links to some hard-line Islamist groups, and his running mate, business entrepreneur Sandiaga Uno, say they will boost the economy by slashing taxes and focusing on infrastructure.

Almost 350,000 police and soldiers will join 1.6 million paramilitary officers stationed across the country of 17,000 islands to safeguard the vote. Stationed in the polls here since 7 a.m., she like other voters sang Indonesia's national anthem, "Indonesia Raya", as voters cast their ballots.

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