Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Joko Widodo Wins Indonesia Presidential Election

Indonesian presidential candidates Prabowo Subianto, left, and Joko Widodo attend a breaking-fast ceremony with outgoing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (not pictured) Sunday at the presidential palace in Jakarta. Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
The Wall Street Journal
Updated July 22, 2014 12:26 p.m. ET

Widodo Victory Comes After Subianto Withdraws From Race

JAKARTA, Indonesia—Jakarta Gov. Joko Widodo was declared the winner Tuesday ofIndonesia's presidential election with more than 53% of the vote, ending weeks of uncertainty following a hard-fought contest in the Southeast Asian nation.

The national elections commission said after days of collating more than 133 million ballots from across the sprawling archipelago that Mr. Widodo edged out former army general Prabowo Subianto with 53.15% of the vote—a margin of about 8.4 million votes. Voter turnout was almost 70% during the July 9 balloting.

Mr. Widodo, a former furniture exporter and mayor who arrived on the national scene by staging a surprise win of the Jakarta gubernatorial seat in 2012, will take the reins of the nation of 250 million people in October, when President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono steps down after serving a maximum 10 years. The exchange of power will be the country's first between directly elected presidents, with Mr. Widodo becoming the nation's fifth president in a democratic era that began with the downfall of longtime authoritarian ruler Suharto 16 years ago.

He'll inherit a regional powerhouse whose $900 billion economy has sputtered of late amid declining prices for its mineral and commodity exports, and will face an early challenge to rein in ballooning fuel subsidies that have stifled spending on infrastructure the country sorely needs to boost productivity—and do it with a heavily splintered parliament that has a history of gridlock.

The announcement from the elections commission came at almost 9 p.m., several hours after officials and hundreds of observers and journalists paused to break the fast, a daily event during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Tens of thousands of police were deployed there and across the megacity to safeguard the count.

Mr. Widodo arrived partway through the announcement wearing a traditional batik shirt alongside his running mate, the former Vice President Jusuf Kalla. He bore a slight smile but made no public address after the commission read out the tallies and declared him winner.

Mr. Widodo planned a victory celebration with supporters at Sunda Kelapa, a port for traditional sailing vessels near the city's early colonial-era Dutch administrative center, when the city was a center of the lucrative spice trade.

In a speech from the deck of a traditional cargo vessel, Mr. Widodo urged Indonesians to quickly move past the most divisive presidential campaign the world's most populous Muslim country became an anchor of stability in Southeast Asia over the past decade.

"The election has led to a new optimism for the country," Mr. Widodo said. "The heart of freedom and political responsibility is blooming with the new generation...That spirit of mutual cooperation will allow the Indonesian people to survive not only in the face of challenges, but also to develop into one of the great civilizations of the future."

Earlier in the day, Mr. Subianto withdrew his team from the vote-counting process, saying in a news conference that he rejected the vote and viewed the election process as "riddled with problems" and "undemocratic."

Arief Budiman, a commissioner of the elections body, said the walkout was Mr. Subianto's right. "Everyone is entitled to their stance and opinions and we respect that," he said.

The withdrawal, hours before the official results were announced, "means [Mr. Subianto] conceded through an alternative way," said Indria Samego, political analyst with the state-run Indonesian Institute of Science, a research organization.

Mr. Subianto, a former general from the Suharto era, gave assurances that he wouldn't resort to force to challenge the vote. The stock market's main index fell almost 2.2% after he spoke but recovered late to close down 0.9%. The rupiah dropped almost 0.9% against the dollar before recovering somewhat in late Asian trade.

Mr. Subianto's "withdrawal stunt caught the market by surprise and hence the initial rather negative reaction," said Wellian Wiranto, economist at OCBC. But "the market is willing to give the situation the benefit of the doubt that all will proceed smoothly in the end, [although] such goodwill might come under fairly strenuous tests in the coming days."

Mr. Subianto could still mount a legal challenge to the vote until Friday. In recent days he said he would file a case at the Constitutional Court, the country's highest legal body when it comes to elections disputes, which would prolong uncertainty until mid-August. But members of his campaign team suggested Tuesday that he no longer intended to file such a case.

Mr. Subianto's coalition of political parties had frayed in recent days, political observers and insiders said. One high-ranking coalition member said the parties had split in recent days after data revealed the team had lost the election by too great a margin to challenge.

The election was the most sophisticated and contentious in Indonesian history, featuring smear campaigns, hundreds of thousands of volunteers, intensive media coverage and, for the first time, regular debates that drew huge viewership in the main islands of Sumatra, Java, Borneo, Sulawesi and beyond.

The stark contrasts in personalities between the two men fueled polarizing discourse especially in Jakarta, the capital of 10 million people.

Mr. Widodo, a product of democratic reforms that allowed him to run for mayor in his hometown of Solo a decade ago, cast himself as an ordinary man of the people with a knack for pushing small but steady improvements in government services.

Mr. Subianto, once Mr. Suharto's son-in-law, appealed to Indonesians longing for strong leadership, saying he would seek to strengthen the presidency and reconsider some reforms of the post-Suharto era.

But both the election and the intricate vote-counting process across the country was a peaceful affair.

"In all the elections I've seen in Indonesia, this is probably the best run,'' said Paul Rowland, a longtime Jakarta-based political analyst.

—Linda Silaen, Sara Schonhardt and Andreas Ismar contributed to this article
—Sara Schonhardt contributed to this article

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