An election official holds a ballot during the counting for the general elections at a polling station in Jakarta, Indonesia. (Photographer: Dimas Ardian/Bloomberg)

Indonesia Is a Country Divided as Both Candidates Claim Victory

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A week after Indonesia’s election, the nation remains deeply divided with both candidates continuing to claim victory, prompting the authorities to warn against public displays of discord.

President Joko Widodo and challenger Prabowo Subianto both say they’ve won the April 17 vote even though a dozen unofficial quick counts showed Jokowi, as Widodo is known, beating his rival by a margin of almost 10 percentage points. The Election Commission is still counting the vote, which it’s due to release by May 22.

Prabowo disputed the tally to claim more than 60 percent of the vote even as he alleged “massive irregularities” in polling. He was also beaten by Jokowi in the 2014 election, which he unsuccessfully challenged in the Constitutional Court.

Indonesia Is a Country Divided as Both Candidates Claim Victory

Since the vote his campaign team has flooded Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram with pleas for followers to help fight efforts to undermine the result -- and his supporters have grown increasingly restless. Hundreds protested outside the main office of the Election Supervisor Board in Jakarta Wednesday, demanding a halt to election irregularities. On Friday, thousands gathered outside his Jakarta residence, shouting slogans hailing him as the president, while there have been reports of clashes in Madura.

The campaign was marred by identity politics, with the opposition targeting the president’s religious credentials and his alleged proximity to China. Some of the most conservative regions -- such as West Java, West Sumatra and Aceh -- overwhelmingly voted for Prabowo, who was backed by hardline Islamic groups and parties, data from Indikator Politik Indonesia showed.

Prabowo is certain to challenge the election outcome in court if he loses again and his supporters will then have no choice but to abide by its ruling, said Dewi Fortuna Anwar, chairman of the Institute for Democracy and Human Rights at the Habibie Center in Jakarta.

“When court ruling is out, I hope people will calm down,” Anwar said. “The tension will not disappear easily, but I hope it will in time.”

Disputed Data

Merry H. Parulian is one voter who’s convinced that Prabowo is being robbed of victory. The 56-year-old mother of three from Jember in East Java said the social media was full of examples of voting data being wrongly entered by the Elections Commission in favor of Jokowi.

“There’s massive cheating going on to reduce votes for Prabowo,” Parulian said by phone. “I follow dozens of WhatsApp groups and monitor the latest developments related to the election. I can send dozens of proofs if you want. But don’t close your eyes because of hatred toward Prabowo.”

Indonesia Is a Country Divided as Both Candidates Claim Victory

Jokowi has cited the accuracy of past quick count polls to claim the win and has called for calm, asking people to wait until the commission announces the results. Both Jokowi and Security Affairs Minister Wiranto have warned against troubles. “We need to keep the situation in control,” Jokowi said at a cabinet meeting Tuesday.

For the president it’s been business as usual. He held two cabinet meetings in two days to finalize a road-map to achieve higher gross domestic product growth next year and has been inaugurating exhibitions and delivering speeches. He’s also asked senior minister Luhut Pandjaitan to meet up with Prabowo to cool things down, but Prabowo has been unable to meet, citing illness.

“Politicians should just stop fanning the flames as this is a difficult time because the elections were complicated and people are not in harmony right now,” said Siti Zuhro, a political analyst at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences in Jakarta.

Sowing Confusion

For Andriyanto Wijayadi, a company executive in Jakarta, Jokowi’s re-election means policy continuity and is a reward for his performance in his first term. Prabowo is trying to sow confusion with his claim of a win, he said by phone.

Investors have largely shrugged off the voter polarization and Prabowo’s defiance. Stocks extended a rally that began in October, with Nomura Holdings Inc. saying the near-term risk of protests were more limited than 2014.

The commission could still take several weeks to complete the count after 81 percent of the 193 million voters participated in the first simultaneous presidential and legislative elections.

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