Joko Widodo

Indonesian presidential candidate Joko Widodo, popularly known as "Jokowi", center, and members of his campaign team gesture after delivering his victory speech in Jakarta, Indonesia, Wednesday, July 9, 2014. Pic: AP

Barring a crisis or a power grab, Jakarta looks like getting true reformasi

 As the night wore on after Indonesia’s 2014 presidential election, it looked more and more like Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo and his running mate, Jusuf Kalla, had pulled off a historic victory despite the fact that they were outspent, out-generaled, faced their own organizational problems and were hit with a ruthless mudslinging campaign.

That probably is an indication of how much the nation of 240 million wants change. With 90 percent of the vote in, Joko and the coalition headed by his Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, or PDI-P, had won by a relatively comfortable margin of 53.3 percent to 46.78 percent, according to quick count tallies. That would mean a plurality of 7 million to 8 million votes. However, his opponent, the 62-year-old former Gen. Prabowo Subianto, was refusing to concede, saying he had his own unnamed quick count polls saying he had won, and asking his supporters to protect the ballot boxes. The official tally won’t be available until on or around July 22.

The big worry appears to be keeping Prabowo in his stable. Many people in Jakarta were worried that the mercurial former general might use his declaration of victory and seek to establish his own administration although in past elections, the quick count has proven accurate and reliable. Some local analysts were warning that Prabowo might use his old Special Forces troops and the government’s intelligence services might try to rig the vote count.

American journalist Allan Nairn said earlier that he had “documentary evidence” that Prabowo would try to rig the outcome. Prabowo claimed victory based on quick counts conducted by pollsters hired by TVOne, a news station owned by one of his party backers, the tycoon Aburizal Bakrie, who could face his own severe headwinds from a corruption-free administration.

Nonetheless, if Joko’s win does stand up, the meaning is dramatic. He has proven so far to be arguably the cleanest politician the country has ever seen, first as mayor of the city of Solo, and then as Jakarta governor. His own party, PDI-P, is filled with about as many crooks as the rest of them. But the choice was stark. In Prabowo, the voters had someone whose stated goal was to circumscribe democracy and possibly take the country back to the authoritarian past of the strongman Suharto, his one-time father-in-law who ruled for 31 years until 1998. He even adopted the safari suit and pillbox cap that Indonesia’s original strongman, Sukarno, favored long ago.

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