Hours after voting ended in Indonesia’s presidential race, candidate Joko “Jokowi” Widodo proclaimed victory while his rival Prabowo Subianto urged patience as the official vote count proceeded. Results of an unofficial quick count on Wednesday indicated a slight edge for Widodo, a former furniture exporter who rose to become Jakarta governor, ahead of Prabowo, a former military man. “Today, Indonesia’s new son has been chosen by the people,” Widodo declared. “We begin a new phase in our history and we start a new beginning of Indonesia.” Widodo’s leap from relative obscurity to potential leader of the world’s most populous Muslim nation has drawn comparisons to U.S. President Barack Obama’s meteoric rise in 2008. For his supporters, the “Jokowi effect” heralds a new breed of political leaders — a break from Indonesia’s tradition of leaders with military, bureaucratic or elite backgrounds.
“It’s not a victory for the party, not a victory for the team but this is a victory for all Indonesian people,” Widodo told his supporters, dressed in his trademark checkered shirt.
Independent pollsters indicated about 52-53% of votes for Widodo and 46-48% for Prabowo. These unofficial quick counts, drawn from samples from polling stations, have usually been accurate to within a 1-2% margin of error. But unlike previous Indonesian elections, this presidential race is a tight one.
“By most standards of democracies that we know, a vote spread of five to six percentage points would be seen as decisive. In the Indonesian context, this is pretty close,” said Thomas Pepinsky, associate professor at Cornell University, who has an interest in South Asia.