JAKARTA — Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo appears to be heading toward a second term as the country’s leader, with unofficial preliminary results from Wednesday’s election projecting a victory over rival Prabowo Subianto.
Several polls show Widodo taking between 53% and 56% of the vote, with Subianto on 45%-47%. Some exit polls have been completed, while quick counts are ongoing with some having accounted for up to 90% of votes. The final tally will be announced by the General Elections Commission later this month or in May.
Speaking to supporters in Jakarta, a relaxed Widodo stopped short of claiming victory, saying: “We’ve seen indications from exit polls and quick count results, but we must patiently wait for official counts” by the election commission.
The projected Widodo win raises concerns that Subianto will challenge the result in court, as he did in 2014 when he lost to Widodo by six percentage points. Another fear is that supporters of the former military general will stage street protests over the result.
In his usual fiery manner, Subianto claimed victory, saying that internal exit polls showed he won with 55.2% and his camp’s quick count results put him at 52.2%. Even so, he urged his supporters to stay calm and to not be provoked into “anarchy.”
Denny Januar Ali of pollster LSI Denny JA said Widodo scored well among religious minorities, Muslim voters from Indonesia’s Muslim group, Nahdlatul Ulama — vice president candidate Ma’ruf Amin is a senior cleric in the organization — as well as the poor.
People on low incomes are “primary school or middle school graduates who don’t know social media so they are not affected by social media conversations,” Ali said. “They are satisfied with Jokowi’s populist programs such as free land certificates” and universal health care coverage and subsidies for school tuition.
Widodo is Indonesia’s first president from outside the nation’s ruling elite. His rise to national prominence began in 2004 when he joined the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle. He was elected mayor of Solo in central Java the following year, serving for seven years before becoming governor of Jakarta in 2012. Two years later, his reformist and populist appeal won him the presidency in a country weary of the old guard with links to the late dictator Suharto.
Fast forward five years and Widodo’s flagship infrastructure development push has proved popular in a nation frustrated with growing traffic congestion in big cities and businesses burdened by some of the highest logistics costs in Southeast Asia.
But the president has failed to keep previous campaign promises of structural reform, economic growth above 7% — it hovers around 5% — and settling past cases of human rights abuse. Moreover, his choice of a senior Muslim cleric as vice president to counter anti-Islam allegations has left many supporters disillusioned.
A Widodo win will likely mean more of the same for Southeast Asia‘s largest economy. He has promised to continue his signature infrastructure development, but with more focus on human resources, and pledged to push manufacturing, the digital economy, tourism and Shariah finance.
The Indonesian rupiah gained against the dollar after it became clear that Jokowi would likely win, momentarily passing the 14,000 mark for the first time since late February.
“A second term under Jokowi will yield more of the same: economic stability and gradual improvements to the business environment. This will ensure Indonesia remains on foreign investors’ radar,” the Economist Intelligence Unit said in a recent report.