Jakarta governor Joko Widodo is expected Tuesday to be declared the winner of Indonesia's tightest presidential election since the end of authoritarian rule, after his opponent ex-general Prabowo Subianto accused him of cheating.
More than 250,000 police officers were on duty across the world's third-biggest democracy for the announcement of the results two weeks after the bitterly-fought poll, in which both candidates declared victory. Voters faced a stark choice between Widodo, from a new breed of politicians without roots in the era of dictator Suharto, and Prabowo, a figure from the old guard who won support with fiery nationalistic speeches but has a checkered human rights record.
The election standoff has emerged as a major challenge for the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation 16 years after decades of authoritarian rule came to a chaotic end. "It's the biggest test of the electoral system since 1999," said Jakarta-based political analyst Paul Rowland, referring to the year of the first free election in Indonesia after the Suharto era.
While reliable pollsters and private websites monitoring the tally predict a victory of several points for Widodo, known by his nickname Jokowi, Prabowo insists his opponent has cheated and says he will not accept the result if he loses. His team has vowed to contest a losing result at the Constitutional Court. While experts say a challenge could create uncertainty, they see it as unlikely to succeed, given Widodo looks to have won by millions of votes.
The results are expected at around 4.00 pm on Tuesday, when the election commission has completed final checks. There are fears the tension could spark unrest in a country that was hit by repeated outbreaks of violence in the years after Suharto's downfall.
Security was particularly tight in the capital Jakarta, with hundreds of police in riot gear stationed around the election commission headquarters, and roads around the centre of the capital closed off to traffic. The political deadlock has also set investors in Southeast Asia's top economy on edge. Most are hoping for a Widodo win, seeing the 53-year-old as a clean leader in an otherwise graft-ridden country and a potential reformer.
Tensions have escalated dramatically since the election as each side accused the other of seeking to tamper with the votes during the lengthy process of counting across the world's biggest archipelago nation.
At the weekend, Prabowo's side repeated allegations of massive fraud by his opponents during the count, and demanded the announcement of results be delayed -- a request swiftly rejected by the election commission. If his team does take the fight to the Constitutional Court, it has until the late August to make a ruling.
There have been concerns about the institution's impartiality after its chief justice was jailed for life for corruption -- however analysts believe the court will be keen to prove it is clean, and is likely to side with Widodo. Despite Prabowo's insistence he has won, the coalition backing him is reportedly split over whether they should contest the result. Even President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono hinted Monday that the ex-general should accept if he loses, saying: "Conceding defeat is noble."
Widodo was the long-time favourite to become president, but a huge poll lead he held for months dwindled to single digits during a hard-fought election campaign. However, on election day, pollsters with a track record of accurately predicting Indonesian election outcomes gave Widodo a slim but decisive lead, and only a small number of less well-known survey institutes called a win for Prabowo, 62.
Widodo won legions of fans during his time as Jakarta governor with his common touch, regularly making visits to the city's slums in casual clothes. Prabowo, in contrast, used to command the army's feared special forces during the Suharto era, was formerly married to one of the dictator's daughters and has admitted ordering the abduction of democracy activists.
Whoever wins will take over from Yudhoyono, also a former general, who steps down in October after a decade in power.