Can Leader Stop Rainforest Destruction
Jakarta Gov. Joko Widodo claimed victory in a closely fought Indonesian presidential election, while his rival disputed the unofficial vote count and said he wouldn’t concede.
As early counts from Indonesia’s presidential election show Joko Widodo with a narrow lead over Prabowo Subianto, the WSJ’s Ramy Inocencio asks ISEAS’s Alex Arifianto which of the two candidates has stronger religious credentials in the Muslim nation.
Mr. Widodo, who saw his once-commanding lead in opinion polls evaporate in recent months, declared that he won based on unofficial vote tallies by independent organizations that showed him with a lead of 3-6 percentage points.
Those organizations had been roughly accurate in using quick counts of a sampling of polling stations to predict results of April legislative elections.
But Prabowo Subianto, a former army general from the era of authoritarian ruler Suharto, said he wouldn’t concede. His camp said pollsters used by his campaign indicated he likely won by as much as four percentage points. Mr. Subianto said he would announce his official stance only after those pollsters neared the end of their counts, while his campaign manager, Mohammad Mahfud, accused the Widodo camp of waging a “cyberwar” by spreading news of his win based on other pollsters. Official election results aren’t expected until after July 20.
“It’s very close and divisive race,” said Yohanes Sulaiman, a lecturer at Indonesia Defense University. “I would’ve waited at least a few more hours until there was a definite count.”
Hundreds of thousands of police and troops were deployed across the country to keep order before the polls opened, with the military cautioning that a margin of victory of less than 5% could lead to unrest in a nation where elections have largely been peaceful affairs.
There were no signs of disorder throughout the polling day in the archipelago nation. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono called for calm from both sides. Supporters of the candidates planned gatherings later in the day.
Mr. Widodo called on his backers to monitor the election bodies working on the official count “so there is no intervention.”
“Don’t tarnish what the people want today,” he said.
The election was the most polarizing in the 16 years since Mr. Suharto’s ouster ushered in an era of reform in the Southeast Asian nation, and looked set to ensure Indonesia’s standing as the region’s strongest democracy.
About 135 million voters went to the polls to choose a successor to Mr. Yudhoyono, who will step down in October after meeting a term limit of 10 years. In that time, he stabilized the country and led an economic boom.
Mr. Widodo was a little-known mayor from central Java, the country’s main island, when he burst onto the national scene in 2012 by winning a gubernatorial race in Jakarta, the capital, which is home to 10 million people. He has championed bureaucratic reform and presented himself as a man of the people in a nation long ruled by members of the elite and the military.
Mr. Subianto has campaigned for the presidency for a decade. He was dismissed from the army for human-rights abuses in the wake of the downfall of his then father-in-law, Suharto. He has since built a career in business and politics. Mr. Subianto has played to desires by many Indonesians for strong leadership and has called into question some of the post-1998 reforms that he says have given rise to corruption and inefficiencies.
The country of 250 million people is facing pressing questions on how to grow a time when it needs to move its economy toward manufacturing and other value-added industries from a model reliant on commodity exports. It also badly needs to build ports, roads and power plants to reinvigorate growth.
“The reality is that the Indonesian economy faces a tough few years ahead,” said OCBC economist Wellian Wiranto, who said the country had passed a test of its young democracy. “While the debate so far has been how to maximize the country’s hold on natural resources, Indonesia’s future really lies with its human resources and how to best utilize the country’s young population to develop it into a manufacturing hub.”
“Indonesia has to have that conversation soon,” he said.
Either man will also face a heavily splintered parliament that has often blocked the current president. Economists say the new leader’s first task will be to rein in populist fuel subsidies, which have ballooned amid rising consumption in recent years and left little budget funding free for infrastructure spending.