Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Thursday declared victory in a presidential election to lead the world’s third-largest democracy, but his challenger also claimed he won and complained of widespread cheating.
The stand-off comes as security officials and analysts warned of potential violence in the world’s most populous Muslim nation over the election dispute.
Unofficial results from private pollsters based on vote samples from Wednesday’s election pointed to a comfortable win for Widodo, with about 55 percent of the popular vote, giving him a lead of almost 10 percentage points over his rival, former general Prabowo Subianto.
The counts from reputable pollsters have proved to be accurate in previous elections, though the official result will not be announced until May 22.
Widodo told reporters he had received congratulatory calls from 22 state leaders, including Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and he invited his rival to meet.
“We all know that the QC [quick count] calculation is a scientific calculation method. From the country’s experiences of past elections the accuracy is 99.9 percent, almost the same as real count results,” Widodo said.
He also urged supporters to wait for official results to confirm the win.
At a separate news conference just minutes after Widodo declared victory, Prabowo appeared defiant and said his team had evidence of cheating and claimed to have won 62 percent of the popular vote based on internal polling.
“We have declared [victory] because we got evidence of widespread cheating at the village, sub-district and district levels across Indonesia,” he said, standing next to his running mate, Sandiaga Uno, who looked more subdued.
In 2014, Prabowo also claimed victory on election day before contesting the results at the Constitutional Court, which confirmed Widodo’s win.
A spokesman for Prabowo said he would take his complaint to the Constitutional Court if the Election Commission confirmed Widodo’s victory.
The commission said earlier on its website Widodo had secured about 50 percent of the vote, based on results from 808 of more than 800,000 polling stations, with Prabowo on about 45 percent.
The English-language Jakarta Post newspaper carried a front-page headline declaring “Five More Years” next to a picture of the president.
Alexander Raymond Arifianto, a political analyst at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, said Widodo’s margin of victory meant the opposition did not appear to have a strong case to claim the election was stolen.
But he noted supporters of the challenger, including the hardline Alumni 212 movement, could hit the streets to dispute the election.
“So Prabowo has no case but the hardliners and Alumni 212 can create lots of headaches for Jokowi if they go ahead with their protest plan tomorrow and in future weeks,” he said, referring to president by his nickname.
Novel Bamukmin, a spokesman for Alumni 212, said the movement planned a peaceful march after Friday prayers at Jakarta’s Istiqlal mosque.
“We just want to bow down to express our gratitude in order that this victory is recognised,” he said, referring to Prabowo’s claim he won the election.
Religious groups have in the past been able to mobilise tens of thousands of supporters.
From late 2016, they organised a series of big protests against the Jakarta governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, the first ethnic-Chinese Christian to hold the job, who was subsequently jailed for insulting the Quran.
Police vowed firm action against any rallies that could disturb security.
“I appeal to anyone not to mobilise, whether to mobilise people to celebrate victory or mobilise due to dissatisfaction,” said national Police Chief Tito Karnavian.
At the same news conference, chief security minister Wiranto called for people to avoid “any act of anarchy that breaches the law”.
Wiranto, who uses a single name, added security forces will “act decisively” against any threats to order and security.
Indonesia is an outpost of democracy in a Southeast Asian neighbourhood of authoritarian governments and is forecast to be among the world’s biggest economies by 2030.
A second term for Widodo, the first Indonesian president from outside the Jakarta elite, could further cement the country’s two decades of democratisation.
The election was a huge logistical exercise with 193 million people eligible to vote, more than 800,000 polling stations, and 17 million people involved in ensuring the polls ran smoothly. Helicopters, boats and horses were used to get ballots to remote and inaccessible corners of the sprawling archipelago.