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Jokowi claims victory in Jakarta; Prabowo demurs

Exit polls in presidential election show large winning margin

Victor? If Mr Joko has indeed beaten Mr Prabowo (above), he could embark on far-reaching reforms in Indonesia soon. - PHOTOS: REUTERS; BLOOMBERG

JAKARTA Governor Joko Widodo - widely known by his nickname Jokowi - declared victory in Indonesia's third direct presidential election yesterday with exit polls suggesting he had a wider-than-expected margin over his rival, former special forces general Prabowo Subianto.

At least seven established opinion survey firms said Mr Joko had bested his rival by a margin of four percentage points. Polls in the week leading up to yesterday's election suggested the result would be much closer.

But Mr Prabowo has refused to concede defeat. Minutes after Mr Joko declared victory, Mr Prabowo claimed the mantle of Indonesia's second directly elected president for himself - telling his followers at his campaign headquarters in Jakarta that the campaign would continue to follow the results.

"Today, it seems Indonesia has given me a mandate," Mr Prabowo said, basing his data largely on internal polling.

He appears to be playing for time, analysts say, waiting until official results are due on July 22 while building a public case for claiming the presidency for himself.

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Critics worry that in one of the world's most corrupt countries, the extra two weeks will give Mr Prabowo's allies the chance to massage the results.

But his chances of success seem slim. Public sentiment risks turning against him, and his parliamentary coalition risks peeling away to Mr Joko as the parties vie to secure positions in the incoming administration.

"We will see public opinion turning against him," said Douglas Ramage, an analyst at consultancy Bower Group Asia. "The margin of victory seems too wide."

There is the risk of a protracted election dispute. Under Indonesia's election laws, either party can challenge the results in the Constitutional Court. A result would not be due until Aug 24.

But Mr Joko's victory may be just big enough to see off that risk, said Homin Lee, Asia economist for private banking at Lombard Odier in Hong Kong.

"The margin of victory seen in early counts more or less assures that Joko has sufficient room to project a national mandate and avoid a challenge in courts," Mr Lee said.

The victory may hand Mr Joko the mandate he needs to embark on far- reaching reforms to help shore up the rule of law and investor confidence in South-east Asia's largest economy.

The country's most respected survey organisations, including the state- owned Radio Republik Indonesia (RRI), have predicted that with more than 99 per cent of votes counted, Mr Joko has won with at least a 5 per cent margin over Mr Prabowo. RRI reported Mr Joko had won with 53 per cent compared with 47 per cent for Mr Prabowo.

Polling company Saiful Mujani Research reported a similar margin with a margin of error of 0.6 per cent. Kompas newspaper put the win at about 52 per cent for Mr Joko compared with 48 per cent for Mr Prabowo.

The results cap a meteoric rise for a man who less than a decade ago was a carpenter and a furniture salesman. Mr Joko was elected mayor of Surakarta in Central Java and burst onto the national stage with a startling upset win in 2012 to oust the incumbent governor of Jakarta.

He is expected to expand services for the poor, strengthen the country's corruption-fighting agency and overhaul the police as well as the judiciary, after the ex-chief justice of the Constitutional Court, Anil Mochtar, was sentenced to life in prison for accepting bribes.

While the results were expected to be close, the margin of victory is roughly double what opinion polls had expected on the eve of Indonesia's third direct election for president.

The result gives Mr Joko the opportunity to woo over parties such as Golkar, that had affiliated themselves with Mr Prabowo's Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra).

Golkar finished second in April's parliamentary elections. Its 91 seats would give Mr Joko's coalition - led by his Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), which finished first in April - a majority in the House of Representatives.

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