An initial count of Wednesday’s ballots put Jokowi on around 55% of the vote, with Prabowo winning around 44%.
Most pre-election opinion polls had given Jokowi a double-digit lead, though he had copped criticism from analysts and former supporters who say he has failed to deliver on issues such as human rights — and compromised his values of pluralism to score political points.
Final official results will be announced by May 22.
Some 192.8 million people were eligible to vote across the archipelago’s 17,000 islands in what is the world’s biggest direct presidential election.
A logistical feat spanning mountains and jungles
Indonesians were actually asked to casting five ballots — for the president and vice-president, for members of the 575-seat House of Representatives, for the Regional Representative Council (or Senate), provincial legislators, and district and city councils.
Polling began at 7 a.m. local time and voters had until 1 p.m. to cast their ballots before polls closed and the counting started.
Ensuring this mega-poll in the world’s third largest democracy would go off without a hitch was a logistical feat, with election workers traveling by boat to remote islands, scaling mountains to reach hill-top villages and trekking through jungles — sometimes on horses — to bring ballot boxes within range of every voter.
“The logistics of this election are fiendishly complicated,” said Ben Bland, director of the Southeast Asia Project at the Lowy Institute.
“Indonesians are spread over hundreds if not thousands of islands, many of these places are very remote and mountain villages, you have to access some places by small boats, on foot in some cases. And remember that many different areas have different ballots because they’re voting for different local candidates,” said Bland.
“So for the election commission to get all these thousands of different kinds of ballot paper to 800,000 polling stations across Indonesia is a real geographical and logistical feat.”
Indonesia’s election watchdog has called for a revote for more than 300,000 Indonesians living in neighboring Malaysia because officials discovered invalid ballots, which were punched by non-voters, and other uncast ballots.
“There is convincing proof that the Overseas Election Committee in Kuala Lumpur did not carry out its task of conducting the 2019 election objectively, transparently and professionally,” the election committee said in a statement.
While Indonesia is a relatively new democracy following the fall of the Suharto regime in 1998, Bland said the nation has a “pretty good track record” of keeping the election free and fair.
“Its important to understand just how hard it is for countries transitioning from authoritarianism to democracy to do so successfully, and how hard it is in a big developing country to hold successful elections,” he said, citing Nigeria and Afghanistan which have delayed their elections because of logistical problems.
Polls suggest that Jokowi, 57, is likely to win a second term. A former furniture salesman, Jokowi became mayor of Surakarta in 2005 and then Jakarta governor in 2012.
Jokowi’s choice of Ma’ruf Amin, a hardline Muslim cleric for his running mate, may have bolstered his religious credentials by appealing to Islamic hardliners that have traditionally supported Prabowo. But it could have also turn off some those who voted for him in 2014 for his commitment to religious freedom.
Some 80 million 18-35 year-olds — about 40% of the electorate — were eligible to cast a ballot this year and both candidates have made efforts to appeal to them.
Jokowi beamed a hologram of himself around the nation, featured his pet goat on social media, and made references to the television show “Game of Thrones.”
“Millennials are very important to the two candidates,” said Hasanuddin Ali, chief executive of research company Alvara Research Center. “Millennial voters are also a key success factor in the Indonesian election.”
But it could prove a hard sell. Analysts say there is widespread disengagement from young people towards politics and they are put off by high levels of corruption and distrust in the system.
“Some don’t feel like they’re being equally represented,” said Ella Prihatini, an academic with the Center for Muslim States and Societies at the University of Western Australia.
“I think it’s unfair to expect LGBT Indonesians to vote when we’re not even considered a part of this nation,” said Amahl Sharif Azwar, a 32-year-old gay Indonesian freelance writer who lives in Thailand.