JAKARTA: The reform-minded governor of Jakarta, Joko Widodo, was yesterday declared the winner of Indonesia’s presidential election after a closely-fought race against a controversial ex-general with deep roots in the era of strongman Suharto.
Widodo grinned broadly as election officials in the capital announced that he had beaten Prabowo Subianto by about six percentage points in the fight to lead the world’s third-biggest democracy.
The news came after a dramatic final day to the tense election period, with Prabowo angrily accusing Widodo’s team of cheating and announcing his withdrawal from the presidential race.
Both candidates claimed victory on the day of the July 9 election, despite reliable pollsters predicting a win for Widodo, who is the first Indonesian leader to come from outside the military and political elites.
After the results were announced, Widodo said his victory was “for all the Indonesian people” and urged the country to unite following the most divisive election since the downfall of Suharto in 1998.
“Let’s become a united Indonesia again, a great Indonesia. We are strong because we are one, we are one because we are strong,” he said in a speech delivered from a traditional wooden boat in a historic Jakarta port.
He also made a point of thanking Prabowo.
Widodo’s victory caps a meteoric rise for the former furniture exporter who was born in a riverbank slum, and won legions of fans with his common touch during his time as Jakarta governor.
It will be welcomed by investors who hope the 53-year-old can breathe new life into Southeast Asia’s biggest economy, which is beset by slowing growth, creaking infrastructure and a corrupt bureaucracy.
Prabowo made a last-ditch attempt earlier yesterday to get the vote announcement delayed.
He claimed Widodo’s team had committed massive fraud and said he was withdrawing from the election process. However, the election commission did not stop its count.
Despite widespread expectations Prabowo would challenge the election results in the Constitutional Court if he lost, his team said he would not do so.
Independent analysts in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation have said that the poll has been largely free and fair.
The official results showed Widodo had received 53.15 percent of the vote, with almost 71 million votes. This compared to 46.85 percent for Prabowo, who received more than 62 million votes.
Widodo will be inaugurated as president in October, when Yudhoyono steps down after a decade in power.