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Politics

Widodo declared Indonesian election winner

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Joko Widodo gestures July 22 after delivering a speech at Sunda Kelapa port. He was declared the winner of the presidential election in Jakarta that day.   © Reuters

JAKARTA -- Joko Widodo, 53, was declared the winner of Indonesia's presidential election on the evening of July 22, after a day of high drama that saw rival candidate Prabowo Subianto, 62, 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.

     Subianto, who won 46.85% of the vote, withdrew his representatives from the final results announcement after giving a bellicose news conference at his campaign headquarters during the afternoon. He 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. Subianto's lawyers said on July 23 morning that the defeated candidate intends to challenge the result at the Constitutional Court.

     President Yudhoyono, the former general who won both of Indonesia's previous free elections, told media July 21 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 5-6%. He called repeatedly for the commission to postpone the results announcement so that alleged cheating could be investigated.

     Fadli Zon, deputy secretary-general of Subianto's Great Indonesia Movement Party, known as Gerindra, told the NAR July 19 that the Subianto campaign believed there was "electoral cheating" in "around 10,000 polling stations nationwide."

     Widodo claimed victory shortly after voting closed July 9, citing unofficial returns compiled by eight polling organizations that showed him as the winner. The so-called quick counts were 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 Politik Indonesia, 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."

     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 in his campaign team.

     In contrast to Subianto's high profile complaints since the election, Widodo has for the most part maintained a low profile. In mid-July, 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 the 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.

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