Widodo looks set for election win, challenger says no

JAKARTA • Indonesian President Joko Widodo appeared set for a second term as “quick count” results from yesterday’s election rolled in, but his challenger claimed that he had won the popular vote and urged supporters not to let his victory be snatched away.

At press time, data from private pollsters based on counts of vote samples were in line with opinion polls that had predicted a win for Widodo.

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 Prabowo Subianto, 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 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 in 2024, if he is sufficiently fit.”

The eight-hour vote on yesterday for both the presidency and legislature seats across a country that stretches more than 5,000km 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.

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.

The official election results will not be published until May. Any disputes can be taken to the Constitutional Court where a nine-judge panel will have 14 days to rule on them.

Widodo was leading in the race to run the world’s third-largest democracy, based on around 90% of samples of votes counted by independent pollsters.

Private pollsters are tabulating a sample of votes known as “quick counts” after polling stations close. In previous elections, the counts from reputable companies have proved to be accurate.

Most quick counts showed Widodo leading by eight to 11 percentage points. — Reuters