JAKARTA — Joko Widodo was declared the winner of Indonesia’s presidential election on Tuesday evening, after a day of high drama that saw rival candidate Prabowo Subianto reject the counting process, alleging he had been cheated of victory.
Widodo, who made his political name as mayor of Solo and governor of Jakarta, won the July 9 election with 53.15% of the vote, according to Indonesia’s National Election Commission.
Speaking at the election commission after the official announcement, Jusuf Kalla, vice president-elect, told the Nikkei Asian Review that he and Widodo “feel fine, feel great” after being declared winners. “I look forward to being back in office,” said Kalla, who was vice president from 2004 to 2009, during the first term of current President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
But Subianto, who won 46.85% of the vote, withdrew his representatives from the final results announcement after giving a bellicose media conference at his campaign headquarters on Tuesday afternoon.
Subianto contended that the vote – the third free presidential election since the fall of the authoritarian Suharto regime in 1998 – was marred by “massive cheating that is structured and systematic.”
He repeated allegations questioning the credibility of the election commission, and of several polling organizations that had earlier indicated that Widodo had won. However, it was not clear whether he would ask Indonesia’s Constitutional Court to overturn the result.
President Yudhoyono, the former general who won both of Indonesia’s previous free elections, told news media on Monday that “admitting defeat is noble.” His comments were seen as an unsubtle reference to Subianto’s refusal to concede.
Subianto had stridently rejected unofficial tallies showing Widodo to have won with a margin of between 5% and 6%. He called repeatedly for the commission to postpone the results announcement so that alleged cheating could be investigated.
In spite of the controversy, the election passed off peacefully. However, riot police lined the streets outside the election commission in Jakarta on Tuesday as labor unions supporting Subianto gathered at a nearby traffic intersection.
Fadli Zon, Deputy Secretary General of Subianto’s Great Indonesia Movement Party, known as Gerindra, told NAR on Saturday that the Subianto campaign believed there was “electoral cheating” in “around 10,000 polling stations nationwide.”
Election commissioner Hadar Gumayrejected Subianto’s criticisms, saying, “We have done our work very transparently and based on the law.”
Speaking after Subianto’s representatives departed from the final results calculation, a process known as recapitulation, Gumay told NAR: “We are disappointed, as we have been doing [this] together from the beginning, but a couple [of] hours before we decide, they leave. But that is their right.”
Widodo claimed victory shortly after voting closed on July 9, citing unofficial returns compiled by eight polling organizations that showed him as the winner. The so-called quick counts are based on a small sample of Indonesia’s 480,000 polling stations, but have proven accurate, as they did in previous elections.
Kennedy Muslim, a lawyer with Jakarta-based Indikator, one of the best-known polling groups, dismissed Subianto’s criticism of organizations that showed Widodo as the victor, including the election commission, as “political.”
Subianto, a former general who has waged a decade-long campaign to win the presidency, alleged that groups such as Indikator were biased in favor of Widodo.
Muslim told NAR: “It is true that several organizations, such as ours, endorsed Jokowi, but we can separate our professional work from our political view.”
The final result showed Widodo winning 70,997,833 votes compared to Subianto’s 62,576,444. The margin of more than 8 million votes suggests that Subianto is unlikely to be successful in his bid to have the result overturned, even if he persuades the Constitutional Court to accept a legal challenge. Subianto’s last-minute rejection of the counting process may even make a legal appeal invalid, according to some of his campaign team.
In contrast to Subianto’s high profile complaints since the July 9 election, Widodo has for the most part maintained a low profile. Last week he attended a tribute held by supporters in south Jakarta, spending an hour tapping his feet in rhythm with covers of rock classics performed by some of Indonesia’s best-known musicians.
Afterwards, Widodo posed for photographs with admirers, telling NAR, “I’m confident that we are going to win,” but brushing off questions about what he would do in office.
If Widodo succeeds Yudhoyono in October as scheduled, the country’s economy is likely to be priority number one, with the World Bank calling for upgrades to the country’s infrastructure.
Gundy Cahyadi, an economist at DBS Bank in Singapore, said that changes were needed to Indonesia’s fuel subsidy program, which is popular among ordinary Indonesians but diverts funds away from infrastructure projects such as roads and ports.
“Energy sector reforms, and in particular the fuel subsidy issue, are the crucial hurdle in the most immediate term. I will look for a successful reform to the fuel subsidy issue as a strong signal of the broader outlook for reforms ahead,” Cahyadi told NAR.
Indonesian financial markets closed before the announcement of Widodo’s victory. However, Indonesian stocks retreated from a 13-month high and the rupiah snapped a four-day rally after Subianto withdrew from the election. The Jakarta Composite Index fell by 2.2% before closing 0.9% lower at 5,083.52. The rupiah dropped 0.3% to 11,605 to the dollar.