Election Day in Indonesia: Citizens Cast Votes for Jokowi’s Successor as Candidates Advocate for Fair Polls

On Wednesday, Indonesians participated in a crucial election across the expansive Southeast Asian archipelago, with the spotlight on the competition to replace President Joko Widodo. The outcome, heavily influenced by Widodo’s stature, holds the key to determining the leader of the world’s third-largest democracy.

A staggering 259,000 candidates are vying for 20,600 positions in what stands as the most extensive single-day election globally.

However, the primary focus is on the presidential race and the future of the incumbent’s aspirations to elevate Indonesia’s standing as an electric vehicle hub. Additionally, the fate of an extensive infrastructure initiative, including a multi-billion dollar project to relocate the capital city, hangs in the balance and is capturing widespread attention.

The competition to succeed the popularly known Jokowi, or President Widodo, features two former governors, Ganjar Pranowo and Anies Baswedan, up against the controversial frontrunner Prabowo Subianto. Prabowo, a former special forces commander, gained notoriety in the 1990s as a key associate of Indonesia’s late strongman ruler Suharto.

Recent surveys indicate that Prabowo is poised to secure the majority of votes, eliminating the need for a second round. The survey results indicate Prabowo with 51.8% and 51.9% support, while Anies and Ganjar lag behind by 27 and 31 points, respectively. To secure an outright victory, a candidate must obtain over 50% of votes and secure 20% of the ballot in half of the country’s provinces.

Following his vote in central Jakarta, Novan Maradona, a 42-year-old entrepreneur, expressed a desire for a candidate who would continue current policies in place.

He mentioned, “If we commence anew from scratch, it will consume time.”

Indonesia, encompassing three time zones, currently has polling stations open across the nation, with voting set to conclude in western areas by 0600 GMT.

The commencement of voting faced a sluggish start in Jakarta, where thunderstorms led to flooding in certain areas of the capital. Although at least 34 polling stations were impacted, the extent of delays remains unclear, and it’s uncertain whether it will affect the overall turnout, which historically hovers around 75%.

In Central Java and Bali, some polling stations were adorned with pink and white Valentine’s Day decorations, while those in West Java province distributed fruit to voters awaiting their turn.

Preliminary results are anticipated later on Wednesday, derived from publicly counted votes sampled from polling stations nationwide. Historical trends suggest that unofficial counts conducted by reputable companies have proven to be accurate in previous elections.

Fair Election is Demanded

Critical to the aspirations of former Jakarta governor Anies and ex-Central Java governor Ganjar are the undecided voters, who could play a pivotal role in pushing for a runoff in June between the top two contenders.

At a polling station, Anies emphasized, “I want to stress that we seek honest and fair elections to ensure a peaceful process.”

In the aftermath of the 2019 election, violent riots erupted when Prabowo, a previous presidential candidate, initially contested Jokowi’s victory.

Anies’ campaign revolves around promises of change and preventing a regression in the democratic reforms achieved over the 25 years since the end of Suharto’s authoritarian and kleptocratic rule.

Ganjar, affiliated with the Indonesia Democratic Party of Struggle, ostensibly Jokowi’s party, campaigns on a platform largely centered on continuing the current president’s policies. However, he crucially lacks Jokowi’s endorsement.

Before casting his vote, Ganjar also called for a clean election to ensure candidates accept the results.

Defense Minister Prabowo expressed his hope on Wednesday for a smooth voting process.

This marks Prabowo’s third election, having previously lost twice to Jokowi, who is subtly supporting his former rival. Jokowi is perceived as a continuity candidate, aiming to preserve his legacy, including a role for his son as Prabowo’s running mate.

During Jokowi’s tenure, efforts were made to attract investment through the introduction of laws that reduced red tape and streamlined business regulations. World Bank data indicates that his administration’s measures to contain inflation have positively impacted millions, leading to an increase in per capita income.

Rebranding Prabowo

The 72-year-old Prabowo has committed to continuing Jokowi’s policies while simultaneously undergoing a transformation in his public image, shifting from a fiery-tempered nationalist to a grandfatherly figure with somewhat awkward dance moves.

This softer portrayal of Prabowo, prominently displayed on the TikTok platform, has resonated particularly with voters under 40, constituting over half of the 204.8 million electorate.

However, Jokowi’s implied backing of Prabowo, coupled with allegations of interference in a court decision to permit his son’s candidacy for the vice presidency, has drawn criticism. Some argue that unlike his predecessors, Jokowi is not maintaining neutrality in the succession process.

While Jokowi’s supporters dismiss such claims, the impact of these allegations on Prabowo’s candidacy remains uncertain.

In response to allegations of irregularities, highlighted in a widely circulated documentary titled “Dirty Vote,” Jokowi emphasized the existence of mechanisms to report such issues.

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