Both sides claimed victory Wednesday in Indonesia's tightest and most divisive presidential election since the end of authoritarian rule, as unofficial tallies showed Jakarta governor Joko "Jokowi" Widodo leading ex-general Prabowo Subianto.
Former special forces boss Prabowo declared himself the winner an hour after his rival made the same claim.
Prabowo said he and his running mate Hatta Rajasa "have received the support and mandate from the people of Indonesia".
He said survey institutes used by his party showed they had won.
A series of unofficial tallies from reliable polling agencies, however, gave Widodo a lead of between four and five percentage points.
"For the time being, the quick counts show that Jokowi-Kalla is the
winner,'' Widodo told a news conference, referring to his running mate Jusuf Kalla.
Official results are not due for around two weeks, due to the complexity of holding elections across the archipelago of more than 17,000 islands that spans three time zones.
The eventual winner will be the second directly elected president after Yudhoyono, who steps down in October after a decade of stable but often indecisive rule.
Late surge by Prabowo
Just a couple of months ago, the election was considered firmly in favour of Widodo, 53, who rose from humble beginnings as a furniture maker to become the governor of Jakarta with a squeaky-clean political record.
But a late surge by Prabowo, 62, vastly improved his chances after he wooed legions of supporters with calls for nationalism despite allegations of widespread human rights abuses during his military career and his connection with former dictator Suharto – his former father-in-law.
Widodo lacks experience in national politics, but he is the first candidate in direct elections with no connection to the 1966-1998 Suharto era and its excesses.
"Unlike previous presidential elections, this time I'm so excited to participate because Indonesia needs a change,'' said Widodo supporter Imam Arifin. "I believe a candidate without a past dark track record can bring a better future to Indonesia.''
The two candidates are vastly different in their policies and styles. Widodo is a soft-spoken man who likes to wear sneakers and casual plaid shirts, listen to heavy metal music and make impromptu visits to the slums.
Prabowo is known for his thundering campaign speeches, a penchant for luxury cars and having trotted up to one rally on an expensive horse. He has the support of the most hard-line Islamic parties and has sparked concern among foreign investors worried about protectionism and a possible return to more authoritative policies.
Strong character vs. caring traits
"Many Indonesian Muslims prefer Prabowo's strong and dynamic character, which can stand up in facing the foreign policies of neighbouring countries and the US,'' said Ikrar Nusabhakti, a political analyst from the Indonesia Institute of Science. "Other people are responding positively to Jokowi's caring and earthy traits.''
The campaign period was marred by smear tactics from both camps. But Widodo blamed his fall in opinion polls from a lead of more than 12 percentage points in May to just around 3.5 points on character assaults that accused him, among other things, of not being a follower of Islam. He has denounced the charges as lies, but says it's hard to undo the damage it caused in the world's most populous Muslim nation.
At the same time, Prabowo's campaign has been more effective and better financed. He also enjoyed the support of two of the country's largest television stations.
The race has played out with fury in the social media crazed country of about 240 million people. There has been a frenzy of "unfriending'' on Facebook pages belonging to users who support different camps.
Indonesia's new president will face a delicate transition. Growth is slowing in Southeast Asia's top economy, corruption is rampant, millions remain mired in poverty, and fears are mounting that Islamic radicals returning from Middle East conflicts could revive militant networks.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP, REUTERS)
Date created : 2014-07-09