Indonesia’s Widodo congratulates poll winner Prabowo

Ananda Teresia and Stefanno Sulaiman |

Prabowo Subianto claimed victory in the Indonesian presidential vote in a rousing speech.
Prabowo Subianto claimed victory in the Indonesian presidential vote in a rousing speech.

Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo says he has congratulated Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto after unofficial counts showed the ex-special forces commander winning this week’s presidential election in a single round of voting.

“I have, in person last night,” the president, popularly known as Jokowi, told reporters on Thursday when asked if he had congratulated Prabowo and his running mate.

Prabowo’s running mate is Widodo’s eldest son, Gibran Rakabuming Raka, who is set to be the youngest vice president in Indonesia’s history.

Prabowo, 72, declared a “victory for all Indonesians” before jubilant supporters late on Wednesday, after so-called quick ballot counts by independent pollsters – accurate in past elections – showed he had won nearly 60 per cent of votes.

Indonesian markets cheered the clear-cut count and rallied on Prabowo’s promise to follow Widodo’s policies in Southeast Asia’s largest economy. 

The country’s stock market rose as much as 2.2 per cent, while the rupiah strengthened 0.3 per cent to its strongest in a month before paring back gains.

Spokespersons for Prabowo’s rivals, ex-governors Anies Baswedan and Ganjar Pranowo, who trailed at least 33 points behind in quick counts, have said they would probe allegations of “systematic and massive fraud”, but have not provided evidence.

Second-place rival Anies, who got 25 per cent of the vote, has said his team would wait for the official results and respect the people’s decision.

Independent analysts have said there were no signs of systematic electoral fraud.

The US State Department said the election was “a testament to the durability and strength of the Indonesian people’s commitment to the democratic process and electoral institutions”.

A preliminary tally by the General Election Commission with about 40 per cent of votes counted put Prabowo in the lead with around 56 per cent. It is expected to announce official results by March 20 and, if confirmed, the new president and vice president will take office in October.

Jokowi did not explicitly endorse any candidate, but the days leading up to the vote were marred by protests against him.

He was criticised for alleged political interference after making highly publicised appearances with Prabowo, and after a last-minute court ruling tweaked eligibility criteria, enabling his son to join the leading ticket.

Jokowi and his allies have denied he meddled.

Prabowo has pledged to continue Jokowi’s efforts to position the resource-rich G20 economy as an electric-vehicle hub, extend a massive infrastructure and social assistance push, and create millions of jobs.

Prabowo has long been dogged by accusations of past misdeeds including involvement in the kidnapping of student activists in 1998 and human rights abuses in Papua and East Timor.

The allegations are unproven, and he has always denied any responsibility.

During his campaign, he transformed his image from a hot-tempered nationalist and military hardliner to a cuddly, cat-loving grandfatherly figure, attracting a huge youth following on social media in a country where more than half of the nearly 205 million electorate are under 40.

Still, while his supporters celebrated Prabowo’s apparent sweeping victory on his third attempt, the reaction of others in Indonesia ranged from caution to dismay.

The hashtag RIP DEMOKRASI was among the trending topics on the social media platform X in the Southeast Asian country.

In an opinion piece entitled “Finally a Win”, the Jakarta Post noted Prabowo’s expected victory had come following a public outcry over alleged improper conduct by Jokowi in the election.

“The next step for Prabowo … will be to prove his critics wrong, that instead of an anti-democratic politician, he can be a consensus builder and a compassionate leader with a stable character,” the newspaper said.