Indonesia's electoral officials rushed to declare incumbent President Joko Widodo the winner of the recent presidential poll amid fears of violence. Widodo's opponent Prabowo Subianto has claimed widespread cheating.
President Joko Widodo won the runoff presidential election in Indonesia with 55.5% of the vote, the nation's General Election Commission said on Tuesday. The final result puts his rival Prabowo Subianto at 44.5%. The official tally roughly matches the estimates published just hours after the April 17 vote.
"I and running mate Ma'ruf Amin are grateful for the trust given to us," Widodo said at a press conference in the capital Jakarta on Tuesday.
The election was viewed as a test of whether Indonesia would continue down the road of embracing pluralistic views or move toward promoting Islamization of the state.
Read more: Indonesia election puts Islam on the ballot
After the polls closed last month, Widodo refused to declare victory and instructed his supporters to wait for the official results. But his opponent Subianto declared himself the winner, saying that his associates put his support between 52% and 54%. Subianto, who is a former son-in-law of ousted military strongman Suharto, also called on his supporters to stage protests and accused the government of cheating.
'A good tactical move'
On Monday, the nation's electoral watchdog rejected Subianto's claims of "massive and systematic fraud," saying there was no evidence for his claims.
The official election tally had originally been scheduled to be released on Wednesday, but the date was moved forward after Subianto's supporters threatened to hold a massive rally in front of the election commission's building in Jakarta. The move was an apparent attempt to forestall any violent unrest at the rally. The government also boosted security across the country and barricaded the commission's building with razor wire.
"The decision to announce the results ahead of schedule is a good tactical move by the election commission," Andreas Harsano, an Indonesia researcher at Human Rights Watch, told DW. "It helped reduce social and political tensions in the country," he added.
Widodo's rival rejects results
After the results were presented, President Widodo pledged to be a leader for all Indonesians. "We are grateful and proud that amid our differences, we have been mature in keeping the peace," he said on a visit to a poor neighborhood of the capital.
However, Subianto refused to concede defeat and pledged he would "continue to make legal efforts in line with the constitution to defend the mandate of the people."
A witness for his campaign team and the leading opposition party also refused to sign and validate the tally. "We won't give up in the face of this injustice, cheating, lies, and these actions against democracy," said Azis Subekti, a witness from Subianto's campaign team.
Meanwhile, Subianto's campaign team official Sufmi Dasco Ahmad said that the candidate is going to challenge the official result in the country's constitutional court. The current standoff closely mirrors the aftermath of the 2014 election, which also saw Subianto run against Widodo and reject the official results. Subianto then tried to contest Widodo's victory, but the court rejected his bid.
A role model for the region?
Indonesia is a Muslim-majority country with a population of over 260 million people, and is the third-largest democracy in the world. The country boasts the largest economy in Southeast Asia and its free and fair elections have previously been hailed as a role model for democracy in a region that often favors authoritarianism.
But the latest presidential campaign was characterized by bitter mudslinging, hate speech and a slew of fake news online.
"Public discourse filled with hate and anti-democratic attitudes have become more widespread over the past several years," said Karyono Wibowo, executive director of the Indonesian Public Institute (IPI). "Indonesian society must learn to respect differences in order to put an end to growing polarization," he added.
sri, dj/aw (AFP, dpa, Reuters)