Indonesia to declare winner in presidential race

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 July, 2014, 3:40am
UPDATED : Monday, 21 July, 2014, 3:40am


After an ugly presidential election campaign, Indonesia is set to declare the winner tomorrow - but that may not settle the dispute between the two candidates, both of whom claim victory.

Unofficial counts by eight polling agencies of the July 9 election have given Joko Widodo, the popular and sneaker-wearing former governor of Jakarta, a slim lead.

But Prabowo Subianto, a former general with a chequered human rights record who has drawn voters with his thundering nationalistic rhetoric, insists he has polling data showing he has won, raising speculation that he might may not accept the results if he loses.

Fadli Zon, vice secretary general of Prabowo's Gerindra party, said they had evidence of many instances of cheating.

"We ask the election committee to solve this problem with recounting," Zon said. "We will not accept [the result]," he said, adding that the announcement should be delayed until the problem had been resolved.

The tension could threaten Indonesia's fragile transition to democracy 16 years after it emerged from the long and brutal Suharto dictatorship. The country of 240 million is experiencing a slowing economy - the largest in Southeast Asia - and needs leadership to tackle a rapidly crumbling infrastructure.

Once the Election Commission announces the winner, it is highly likely the losing candidate will appeal to the Constitutional Court, the country's highest. Judges there will have two weeks to rule on any complaints before deciding who won. However, some experts worry that Indonesia's endemic corruption could affect that decision. Last month, the court's chief justice was sentenced to life in prison for taking a bribe to adjudicate in favour of a plaintiff in a case related to a disputed provincial election.

"That will be a challenge for the Constitutional Court, whose image has already been ruined," said Mohammad Qodari, a political analyst.

Subianto, who has declared assets of US$140 million and is on his third bid for the presidency, denies any intention to attempt to buy the vote.

The results could trigger social unrest such as clashes between supporters of the two candidates. The security situation across the country's 18,000 islands has improved markedly in recent years, but the unprecedented rancour of the campaign, the first between just two candidates in the country's history, means that tensions are running high. Widodo, a former furniture maker, is widely seen as untainted by the often-corrupt military and business elite that have run Indonesia for decades.

Subianto, late dictator Suharto's former son-in-law, is seen by some as providing stronger leadership and was endorsed by Islamic-based parties, hard-line Islamic groups and outgoing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's political party.

Voters for Subianto chose to ignore his links to past human rights abuses. He admits taking part in the abduction of pro-democracy activists during the dying days of the Suharto dictatorship when he was head of the army's strategic command, saying he was following orders. He was fired from the army as a result, and spent several years in self-imposed exile in Jordan.

Additional reporting by Reuters