After a month of intense campaigning, Indonesians voted on July 9 to elect their first new president in a decade. Independent agencies are expected to announce a preliminary tally later Wednesday once all of the country's 190 million registered voters have submitted their ballots. Official results are due after July 21.
Recent polls indicated a tightly fought contest between candidates Jakarta governor Joko Widodo and former army general Prabowo Subianto. Indonesian Survey Circle (LSI) said on July 7, that Jokowi and running mate Jusuf Kalla's electability stood at 47.8 percent compared to Prabowo's 44.2 percent.
Financial markets, businesses and government offices were closed on Wednesday for the occasion, which marks a milestone for the world's fourth most populous nation since former authoritarian leader Suharto was ousted in 1998.
Sentiment in Indonesian markets rose in preceding weeks, with both the benchmark Jakarta Composite and the rupiah rallying over 2 percent in the last two days of campaigning. Meanwhile, a private gauge of consumer confidence for June rose on the back of increasing confidence about the economy.
"Undoubtedly, there was a nationalistic tinge to the electioneering of both candidates and it is not surprising to find that the electorate has not been immune to the optimistic outlook for the future ," said Glenn Maguire, chief economist for Asia-Pacific at ANZ.
-Posted on July 9, 2014.
Voting first got underway in the eastern regions of Papua and Maluku and will terminate in the islands of Java and Sumatra, which hosts the bulk of the country's 250 million population. A high turnout is expected after 75 percent of registered voters participated in April's legislative polls. Here, women in Bintan show off their inked fingers after casting their ballots.
An election officer carries a ballot box through Yogyakarta's slum areas for distribution to the polling stations. Around 32 million Indonesians live below the poverty line and boosting spending on the poor will be a key challenge for the next president.
Police personnel line up during security preparations in Denpasar, Bali in the days preceding the vote.
53-year old Joko Widodo, commonly referred to as Jokowi, is widely considered the country's most popular politician. Born into poverty in Java, he cultivated a rock star status for being a man of the people, frequently visiting poor communities. His biggest accomplishments as Jakarta governor include getting the capital city's Metro system underway and giving out free healthcare cards.
Some of Jokowi's key policies include instilling public trust in institutions and raising the quality of life for citizens. In May, he wrote an article published in Indonesia's Kompas newspaper, outlining his vision for a revolution of national character. These populist policies and his grassroots campaigning have struck a chord within 17-29 year old voters, who make up 29 percent of total registered voters. Eleven percent of that group will be voting for the first time this year.
62-year old Prabowo Subianto, leader of the Gerindra party and former special forces commander, is the son of former leader Suharto's trade minister and a member of the country's political and military elite. He envisions a strong state at the heart of his domestic agenda and many Indonesians see him as the kind of tough leader the country needs following years of decentralization.
Subianto proposed a return to Indonesia's original 1945 constitution, stating that the country's current amended version has been a failure. Seen as a more polarizing figure than Jokowi, Subianto is currently banned from travelling to the U.S. due to his role in kidnapping student protestors and inciting ethic violence in the late 90s. But voters have focused on his economic credentials and promises to raise minimum income per capita from $3,224 a year to $5,527.
Whether it's Prabowo or Jokowi, the next President of Southeast Asia's largest economy faces plenty of challenges such as a persistently high current-account deficit and budget shortfalls due to ballooning fuel subsidies. Reforms to tackle weak infrastructure, an uncertain legal framework and corruption are expected to dominate the reform agenda for either candidate.