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Jokowi widens lead against rival in official tally of votes mid-way


INDONESIAN President Joko Widodo led his challenger by about 12 percentage points midway through an official tally of votes cast in the April 17 election, weakening his rival's claim of victory.

Mr Joko, known as Jokowi, secured 56.2 per cent of the votes, compared to 43.8 per cent for challenger Prabowo Subianto with ballots from 52 per cent of the polling stations tallied, according to an online count by the General Elections Commission. The incumbent won 44.4 million votes to Mr Prabowo's 34.6 million, data from 420,513 voting stations showed.

The commission still must verify the online data, based on a form filled out at each polling station based on counting of paper ballots by May 22.

The data backs up unofficial quick counts from about a dozen private pollsters that showed Mr Joko with a comfortable win, dealing a blow to Mr Prabowo's claim of having garnered 62 per cent of the votes.

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The former Suharto-era general has claimed "massive fraud" in the election, a charge authorities said was "unfounded" and meant to "de-legitimise the government and election organisers."

Mr Prabowo's campaign team remains confident of victory as votes from his strongholds have yet to be counted, spokesman Andre Rosiade said.

It was "strange and suspicious" that more votes from Mr Joko's base like Central Java were tallied compared to Mr Prabowo's strongholds such as West Java and Banten provinces, he said.

While Mr Prabowo may still launch a legal challenge of the official result just like he did in 2014, his vice-presidential candidate Sandiaga Uno has signalled that he's open to working with Mr Joko.

"The interest of the country is first and foremost," Mr Sandiaga said in an interview last week when asked if he would consider a cabinet post if Mr Joko wins again and makes an offer. "I want to contribute to the country."

Mr Prabowo's comments questioning the impartiality of the election commission has sparked concerns his followers could hit the streets and cause unrest if the result went against him. Both Mr Joko and his Security Affairs Minister Wiranto have warned citizens against starting trouble.

The commission can help ease tensions by speeding up the counting process and issuing a statement that addresses issues raised by the candidates, said Noory Okthariza, a political analyst at Jakarta-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies.

For the president it's been business as usual. On Monday, Mr Joko chaired the third cabinet meeting since the vote.

He has ordered ministers to take steps to achieve higher gross domestic product growth next year without diluting the focus on the ambitious infrastructure drive that highlighted his first term and start work on setting up a new capital city outside Java island.

The president may reshuffle his cabinet before being sworn in for a second five-year term in October as he wants to keep his focus on infrastructure and human resources development, Koran Tempo, reported, citing an interview with Mr Joko.

Arya Sinulingga, a spokesman for Mr Joko's campaign team, said the online tally of votes only confirmed the quick count findings and the final official result will reconfirm a win for the president.

"It's now time to support Jokowi for the next five years so that he can complete all the work that he began," Mr Sinulingga said.

Indonesia held its first simultaneous presidential and legislative elections with more than 245,000 candidates fighting for about 20,000 positions.

The turnout was more than 80 per cent of the 193 million people eligible to cast their votes. The death of almost about 290 polling workers and police officials from exhaustion from the world's largest one-day election has triggered calls for separating the vote in 2024.

Mr Joko's Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, or PDIP, Golkar and Mr Prabowo's Gerindra Party led the vote tally in the elections to the nation's lower house of parliament, known as DPR, commission data showed on Monday. BLOOMBERG

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