Indonesian election officials are expected today to officially declare Jakarta Governor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo as the winner of a hotly contested presidential election. The election was keenly watched as it is considered a test of democracy in the country. It’s also important because Indonesia has the world’s largest Muslim population and this is only the third direct presidential election following the fall of the authoritarian Suharto regime in 1998. The success of this election will win the country a firm place in the league of democratic nations.
Jokowi has defeated former special forces chief Prabowo Subianto by about five percentage points, according to reports. Prabowo has refused to concede defeat and is expected to challenge the result in the Constitutional Court, though experts say such an appeal is unlikely to succeed. There were fears that dispute between the two candidates would mar the announcement of the results, but those fears are fading away as the country rallies behind the winner. The bold stance of the current government has helped avert a crisis. Outgoing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono urged whoever loses the closest race to acknowledge the outcome to avoid violence in the world’s most
populous Muslim nation. The president’s words have sent a clear message, and while Prabowo is free to use all the constitutional and democratic means to make sure that he gets justice, he will not be allowed to resort to any other method to undo the progress made so far. The government is making extra efforts to maintain law and order. Hundreds of thousands of police and military are on heightened alert across the vast archipelago of 240 million people. Markets have largely brushed off chances for uncertainty and have rallied on the likely Jokowi win. The Jakarta Stock Exchange is trading near a
one-year high, closing up nearly 1 percent on Monday. The rupiah
has also strengthened against the dollar, gaining 0.4 percent to 11,567.
Jokowi’s rise to the seat of president is something unprecedented in Indonesian history and shows the faith Indonesians have in him. Born in relative poverty, he has become an icon with a clean image and a reputation for competence in
local government, in complete contrast with the autocracy, corruption and power politics that have weighed down the country for decades. He now has the huge task of living up to the expectations of his people. That will not be easy, but any success he achieves will raise the stature of Indonesia on the global stage. The country has a powerful economy with huge potential for growth. The new president needs to encourage growth, root out corruption, launch reforms and take his countrymen into confidence.