Indonesians head to the polls in mammoth election

Evarado Alatorre
Abril 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.

Kompas news channel has Jokowi leading with 54.90% in the bitterly fought campaign dominated by promises to boost jobs and the economy against a backdrop of growing religious intolerance and the rising influence of political Islam.

Despite the quick count results, the Prabowo camp is claiming its exit poll shows the former general won by 55.4%.

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.

"His popularity is still up there. but he is not the inspiring figure that he was five years ago".

The market responded positively to the early count, with one-month non-deliverable forwards for dollar-rupiah falling as much as 0.8%, the biggest decline in a month, to 14,055 as of 3:17pm in Jakarta. Prabowo promised to revive Indonesia's manufacturing sector while railing against Indonesia's current account deficit and the inability of the current administration to spur economic growth much beyond 5%.

"However, we have to be patient and wait for the official recapitulation of votes by the KPU", Jokowi said.

These numbers are based on snapshots of actual votes from more than 800,000 polling stations across the country - the margin of error depends on the sample size, though the consensus of these polls has proven accurate in the past.

Presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto has voted in Indonesia's presidential and legislative elections and says he confident of winning despite polls showing that he trails President Joko Widodo by up to 20 percentage points.

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Speaking to reporters near his home in Bogor, West Java, after voting, Prabowo said he could not guarantee there would not be any post-election chaos, but said it would not come from his team. "But we don't want to be cheated anymore, the Indonesian people won't be cheated anymore".

The polls present a huge logistical challenge in a country stretching 4,800 kilometres across more than 17,000 islands with a population of more than 260 million, including hundreds of ethnic groups and languages. In Jakarta, armored vehicles were parked in front of shopping malls, while tens of thousands of security forces had been deployed around the capital.

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%.

"Islam is going to be a far more important player in the near future of Indonesian politics", said Alexander R. Arifianto, who heads the Indonesia programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.

Declining to say which candidate he picked, he said he went in the morning because it was his political right. He has also played to a base of Islamic conservative voters, pledging to be a strong defender of the religion.

Still, Indonesia is "fairly resilient" in the face of a global slowdown, Pangestu said.

Inflation is at a near-decade low and the jobless rate close to its lowest in 20 years.

Foreign direct investment dropped 8.8% in 2018, the first decline since Jokowi came to office in 2014. "There could be a cut", she said on interest rates, which have been left unchanged for several months after six rates hikes since May previous year.

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