JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Jakarta Gov. Joko Widodo, who captured the hearts of millions of Indonesians with his common man image, was declared the winner Tuesday of the country’s presidential election, calling it a victory for all of the nation’s people.
A former furniture exporter known to most as “Jokowi,” Widodo was the first candidate in a direct presidential election in Indonesia with no ties to the former dictator Suharto, who ruled for 30 years before being overthrown in 1998.
“This is a victory for all Indonesian people,” Widodo, who received 53 percent of the vote, according to the Election Commission, said in a televised speech. “We hope this victory will pave the way to build Indonesia to be an independent economy.”
The other contender in the July 9 election, former Gen. Prabowo Subianto, declared he was withdrawing from the contest shortly before the final numbers were released by the commission, saying there was massive fraud during the election, and that it was unfair and undemocratic.
Indonesia is a sprawling archipelago of about 17,000 islands and 240 million people, and the commission needed two weeks to count all the votes.
Widodo had maintained a slim lead of about 4 percentage points in unofficial “quick counts” by polling agencies released after the election. But Subianto, who has declared assets of $140 million and was on his third bid for the presidency, repeatedly claimed that polling firms with links to his campaign showed he was ahead.
“We reject the 2014 presidential election, which is illegitimate, and therefore we withdraw from the ongoing process,” he said Tuesday.
Observers of the election said they were generally fair and free, with minimal abnormalities. Maswadi Rauf, a political professor at the University of Indonesia, said he saw no sign of significant fraud, as alleged by Subianto.
Subianto’s rejection of the results “reflects the real attitudes of the elite, who are not yet ready to accept losing,” Rauf said. “We are still in a transition to democracy, which is indeed not our culture. And what is happening indicates we are still immature, we need to learn.”
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry congratulated Widodo on his election victory, and said the U.S. and Indonesia share common values, including respect for human rights and rule of law.
“The United States looks forward to working with President-elect Widodo as we deepen our partnership,” Kerry said in a statement.
In Jakarta, there were no immediate reports of violence Tuesday. About 100 Subianto supporters held a peaceful protest about 300 yards from the Election Commission building in the city’s downtown, chanting “Prabowo is the real president” and holding banners saying that the commission should stop cheating.
The building was surrounded by thousands of policemen to maintain security after a particularly nasty presidential campaign marred by smear tactics from both camps. Widodo blamed his drop in opinion polls in the weeks before the election on character assaults that accused him, among other things, of not being a follower of Islam – which he denounced.
Indonesia has the world’s fourth-largest population and is the most populous Muslim country.
Despite Widodo’s lack of experience in national politics, he built a reputation as being a man of the people and an efficient leader who wants to advance democratic reforms, and was elected to run Jakarta, the capital, in 2012. He is widely viewed as untainted by the often corrupt military and business elite that have run Indonesia for decades.
Subianto, meanwhile, a general in the Suharto regime and the late dictator’s former son-in-law, came from a wealthy, well-known family. He had a dubious human rights record during his military career, but was seen as a strong and decisive leader. His campaign was better financed and he got endorsements from most of the country’s major political parties, including that of outgoing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who served two terms lasting 10 years and was constitutionally barred from seeking re-election.
Final results showed that Widodo, from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, received just under 71 million votes, or 53 percent of the more than 133 million valid ballots cast, while Subianto got 62.6 million votes, or 47 percent.
Voter turnout was 71 percent, down slightly from the 2009 presidential election, when it was 72 percent.
AP Photo/Dita Alangkara Indonesian president-elect Joko Widodo, left, and vice president-elect Jusuf Kalla deliver their victory speech on a traditional phinisi ship at Sunda Kelapa port in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Tuesday.×
AP Photo/Dita Alangkara Indonesian president-elect Joko Widodo, left, and vice president-elect Jusuf Kalla walk on the deck of a traditional phinisi ship upon arrival to deliver their victory speech at Sunda Kelapa port in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Tuesday.×