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Jokowi wins presidential poll

Prabowo accepts defeat; may lack muscle to be disruptive force to new president

Man at the top: Joko Widodo with running mate Jusuf Kalla after being declared the winners yesterday. Mr Prabowo waves to his supporters before delivering a statement prior to the count announcement. - PHOTOS: REUTERS, AFP

THE frontrunner in Indonesia' presidential polls, Jakarta governor Joko Widodo, has won the country's third-ever poll for the top job, the General Elections Commission (KPU) announced yesterday.

KPU chairman Husni Kamil Manik declared in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta: "Joko Widodo and Jusuf Kalla had a vote tally of... 53.15 per cent of the total national vote. They have been confirmed as the elected president and vice-president for the period of 2014-2019."

Hours before the KPU was due to make that announcement, Mr Joko's rival, former special forces general Prabowo Subianto, appeared to have withdrawn from the race, citing "massive and systemic fraud" in the country's electoral system.

He did not pull out, and has since decided against challenging the election result in the Constitutional Court, his lawyer Mahendradatta said; the move would have dragged out what was already a bruising campaign marked by ethnic and religious smears by several more weeks.

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The former military man's hopes of being a spoiler during Jokowi's first term in government, however, are not assured: his seven-party coalition is breaking apart.

His campaign manager Mahfud M D resigned his position this week, saying he "failed to deliver victory", according to comments to the media.

Agung Laksono, the deputy chairman of Golkar, which has the second largest block of seats in the House of Representatives, has spoken publically against disputing the KPU's results.

On top of that, Mr Prabowo's running mate and Golkar's candidate for vice-president Hatta Rajasa was conspicuously absent during the former's speech conceding defeat.

Philips Vermonte, who heads the department of politics and international relations at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, noted the disunity, saying: "Prabowo is a sore loser. His VP candidate was not with him during the press conference. There's been disagreement in the coalition. Hatta wasn't there. There are cracks in the coalition."

Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, legally barred from seeking a third five-year term, is eager to protect his legacy and may make a bid for a role in an international body such as the United Nations.

Fauzi Ichsan, Standard Chartered's Jakarta-based senior economist said Mr Yudhoyono would also be keen on a peaceful transfer of power: "What's important is the role of the president. It's under his watch. He needs a smooth transition. He has said the loser must accept defeat."

So far, the military and the police have said they will remain neutral.

Jokowi now faces the challenge of healing a political divide in a country that has experienced the closest election since the country's voters were allowed a direct say in electing the country's president.

He was tarred in a smear campaign accusing him of being a Christian and of Chinese descent - harsh accusations in a country where 88 per cent of the population is Muslim.

Jokowi, a Muslim who has been on the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, denied the accusations.

No matter what Prabowo's camp alleges, Jokowi has won the day. Some seven million votes divide the two candidates.

Mr Ichsan said: "It's difficult to swindle that many votes."

Mr Joko and his running mate cornered a total of 70,633,576 votes nationwide; the 46.85 per cent that the Prabowo and Hatta pairing received amounted to 62,262,844 votes.

Jokowi took to Facebook, announcing on his page: "Election victory is the people's victory. I appreciate all Indonesians that have enlivened the celebration of democracy. Now is the time we unite and develop peace and mutual aid to uphold the unity and integrity of Indonesia."

He represents a move away from political dynasties. A self-made businessman from a middle-class family who, after entering politics in his home town of Solo in central Java, captured the imagination of voters nation-wide with his penchant for mingling with the people.

As governor of Jakarta, he built a reputation as a reformer who focused on bread-and-butter issues such as health care and transport.

"It's clear that this is a new chapter for Indonesia," said Achmad Sukarsono, associate fellow at Jakarta-based research institute The Habibie Center. "Indonesians want to have a leader who can understand them. Their imperfections, their conditions, their demands. Not someone who thinks that they know and then they make policies with that kind of confidence."