Polls close in Indonesian presidential election

All indications point to a voter turnout of 75 percent of eligible voters, a significant increase from 69 percent in 2014. Photo by Dedi Sinuhaji/EPA-EFE

April 17 (UPI) — The polls closed Wednesday in Indonesia’s presidential and legislative elections that early indications point to a high turnout in a race that pitted incumbent President Joko Widodo against former army general Prabowo Subianto.

It was a rematch from the closely contested 2014 election that saw Widodo of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle win his first five-year term with 53 percent of the 135 million votes cast, according to the International Foundation for Electoral Systems.

With polls now closed, the General Elections Commission estimated a turnout of 75 percent of registered voters, which is a significant uptick from the 69 percent in 2014, Jakarta Globe reported.

The election is the world’s largest single-day exercise in democracy with some 193 million eligible voters throughout the archipelago country.

While not compulsory, voting occurs on a national holiday in order to encourage high turnout.

The eight-hour vote occurred at over 800,000 polling stations in “one of the world’s most complicated elections,” the independent think tank Lowy Institute said.

The election followed a six-month campaign, where infrastructure, corruption and the economy were all central issues but none more central than Indonesia’s national identity, the BBC reported.

Widodo, the 57-year-old incumbent, is seen as the favorite, and campaigned on infrastructure development while trying to garner support among traditional Muslims, the New York Times reported.

And while Widodo is a more progressive Muslim as he listens to heavy metal music, Subianto, 67, of the Great Indonesia Movement Party, has been courting the hard-line Islamist vote, having promised to return from self-imposed exile Islamic Defenders Front chief Rizieq Shihab, a group that is known for attacking Jakarta nightclubs and bars while calling for the implementation of Sharia law.

“If, in fact, Prabowo wins, it would be a major, major upset,” said Marcus Mietzner, an expert on Indonesian politics and a senior fellow at Australian National University.

The nation of 264 million people has the largest Muslim population in the world with large swaths supporting the implementation of Sharia law.

Also, for the first time, Indonesia voted the same day on 575 members of Indonesia’s House of Representatives from 16 national parties.

The polls were open from 7 a.m to 1 p.m. local time with expectations of the president to be named in hours.

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