Rallying the people: Prabowo (onstage, centre) addressing a huge pro-Palestine march in Jakarta. — AFP
JAKARTA: Indonesia’s president urged the election chief to ensure a transparent vote count following this week’s disputed presidential poll, after both sides raised fears the other may tamper with the ballots.
Political tensions are rising after the tight election in the world’s third-biggest democracy ended with both Jakarta governor Joko Widodo and his rival, ex-general Prabowo Subianto, declaring victory on Wednesday.
Most credible pollsters gave Widodo a lead in unofficial tallies, but Prabowo said that other polling institutes followed by his team showed he was the winner.
Vote tallying is a long, complex process in the world’s biggest archipelago nation, and results are not expected until July 22.
On Thursday, Widodo, known by his nickname Jokowi, expressed fears that the vote count could be manipulated in one of the world’s most graft-ridden countries, and urged his supporters to monitor the process.
But Prabowo hit back, saying he thought his side was being targeted.
“There are reports that some election boxes have been stolen, our witnesses are being intimidated,” he told journalists, after addressing a huge crowd of devout Muslims at a rally in Jakarta protesting Israel’s bombardment of Gaza.
Outgoing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono stepped into the row yesterday, saying the role of the election commission was now “important and critical” and that he had spoken to the head of the body.
“I suggested that the (commission) invite both candidates and their teams to monitor the counting process so they can see the counting on a day-by-day basis,” he said.
This means that “when it is announced, they know that the process has been carried out carefully”, he said, talking to journalists at the presidential palace in Jakarta before a cabinet meeting.
He added that the election chief had welcomed the suggestion.
Widodo, 53, is the first serious presidential contender without deep roots in the era of dictator Suharto, and he has won huge popularity with his common touch.
Prabowo, 63, was a top military figure in the time of Suharto. He has admitted ordering the abduction of democracy activists before the strongman’s downfall, and was formerly married to one of his daughters. — AFP