Tens of millions of Indonesians will vote in presidential and parliamentary elections this week after campaigns focused on the economy, but with political Islam looming ever larger in the world’s biggest Muslim-majority nation.
President Joko Widodo, a former furniture salesman who launched his political career as a small-city mayor, is standing for re-election in a contest with ex-general Prabowo Subianto, whom he narrowly defeated in 2014.
Most opinion polls give Widodo a double-digit lead but the opposition has disputed survey findings. It has also said it has uncovered data irregularities affecting millions on the electoral rolls and has vowed to take legal action or use “people power” if its complaints are not resolved.
Some analysts say an unexpected win for the challenger would probably cause a brief slump in Indonesian markets, while a very close race could elevate the risk of a disputed vote.
“In a scenario in which Widodo wins by an unexpectedly narrow margin, large and prolonged protests in Jakarta would elevate tensions and pressure the currency,” Kevin O’Rourke, a political analyst and author of Reformasi Weekly, said in the Indonesia-focused newsletter last week.
While most polls have put the president ahead, they could not be taken for granted, a senior government official said.
“Absolutely everybody is flying blind because we don’t know how far the opinion polls can be respected,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Widodo ended his six-month campaign with a mass rally at Jakarta’s main stadium at the weekend, where festive crowds overflowed into a surrounding park and streets.
Running ran out on stage in sneakers, to the cheers of the crowd after an hours-long concert by local bands, he struck an optimistic tone for the future of the world’s third-largest democracy.
That was a stark contrast to his opponent, who has repeatedly warned Indonesia is on the verge of collapse.
Prabowo, as he is usually known, held a similarly big rally the previous weekend where supporters, many dressed in Islamic robes, held a mass prayer before a fiery speech about how Indonesia was being pillaged by foreigners and the elite.
Indonesians to vote in world’s biggest single-day election