Questionable result would mar Indonesia’s election

An Indonesian man rested near ballot boxes Thursday in Jakarta. Official results are due in less than two weeks.
An Indonesian man rested near ballot boxes Thursday in Jakarta. Official results are due in less than two weeks.

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Former general Prabowo Subianto’s refusal to accept unofficial counts showing he lost the Indonesia presidential race to Governor Joko Widodo of Jakarta has focused attention on the seven-person body charged with confirming the votes in the third-biggest democracy.

The General Elections Commission is tallying votes from the July 9 ballot, with official results due in less than two weeks. About 140 million votes need to be added up across an archipelago that would stretch from New York to Alaska, with the numbers passing through village, district, provincial, and regional tabulation centers before reaching Jakarta.

While the election was violence-free and Jakarta’s streets were quiet Thursday, a result seen as questionable by either side risks legal challenges and public protests. Even after the country moved to direct presidential elections a decade ago, having shaken off the rule of dictator Suharto in 1998, graft is widespread, with Indonesia ranked 114th among 177 countries in a 2013 Transparency International corruption perceptions survey.


‘‘This is a test of Indonesia’s democracy, our maturity to practice democracy,’’ said Hikmahanto Juwana, a professor of international law at the University of Indonesia near Jakarta. ‘‘The burden is on the election commission now, and then people must refrain from doing anything that may provoke conflict or social unrest.’’

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Most quick counts released after polls closed two days ago show Widodo, 53, known as Jokowi, with a 2-to-6 percentage point lead. If confirmed, it would make him the first leader of Indonesia without ties to Suharto. Such counts conducted by the established survey companies have been accurate in all presidential and parliamentary elections in the past decade.

Indonesian stocks rose Thursday to a one-year high and the rupiah touched the strongest level in seven weeks on the unofficial results.

Prabowo, 62, who was married to the dictator’s daughter and dismissed from the army for links to human rights abuses, cites counts conducted by companies he uses for guidance showing him with a small lead.

Both candidates, in their victory speeches, called on supporters to guard against attempts to manipulate the official tally. Outgoing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, whose term ends in October, urged supporters on both sides to remain calm after the vote.