Indonesia’s election commission began the task of tallying about 140 million votes to meet a two-week deadline to announce the winner of the country’s closest-ever presidential election after both candidates claimed victory. The disputed outcome raised the prospect of short-term uncertainty for Asia’s fifth-largest economy and the world’s third-biggest democracy, after unofficial counts by two survey companies showed Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo, 53, secured more votes than Suharto-era general Prabowo Subianto, 62. Both candidates in their victory speeches called on supporters to guard against attempts to manipulate the tally, while outgoing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono urged supporters on both sides to remain calm following the vote.
“This is the first close election in Indonesia ― this is going to be a test of the system,” said Andrew Thornley, Jakarta-based programme director for elections at non-profit development organization The Asia Foundation. “Once ballot boxes go up the chain, there is a risk of fraud.”
Before the election commission can release official results by July 22, it must tally the ballots of the forecast 75 per cent of 190 million eligible voters who turned out. The results are hauled, sometimes by boat, horseback and on foot, from polling stations on 900 inhabited islands in the Southeast Asian archipelago, which would stretch from New York to Alaska, to regional centers. While counting at local booths is done publicly ― those figures form the basis of the quick counts ― adding the results up is done in secret.