Voting under way in Indonesia’s biggest election

indonesia election have started voting to choose the next president.

Voting got under way in the presidential and legislative elections at 7am on Wednesday (2300 GMT on Tuesday) in its easternmost provinces. It began in the capital Jakarta two hours later.

Indonesia has three time zones. Voting ends at 1pm and the so-called “quick count” results are expected after about two hours.

The presidential race pits incumbent Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and his running mate, Indonesian Ulama Council Chairman Ma’ruf Amin, against retired general and longtime rival Prabowo Subianto and multi-millionaire businessman Sandiaga Uno.

Widodo and Amin are trying to project themselves as progressive yet religious, with a campaign slogan of “Advancing Indonesia”.

“I am a nationalist,” Widodo said on the announcement of his candidacy in August 2018. “He is a devout religious figure. We complement each other well.”

Prabowo, who has been accused of human rights abuses, ran against Widodo in 2014, while Uno is a businessman who spent a few months as deputy governor of Jakarta, after the mass rallies against Basuki Tjajaha Purnama (also known as Ahok) who was accused – and later convicted – of blasphemy. 

Ballot papers were delivered with security escorts to remote regions of the country by plane, speedboat, canoe and horseback.

Two speedboats have been deployed as mobile polling stations for residents on the Thousand Islands chain north of Jakarta.

“Even though some people are apathetic, I think it’s important to vote for Indonesia’s future. Vote with your conscience,” said Hadi Wiguna, who was queueing to vote at a polling station in central Jakarta.

A tornado in East Java late on Tuesday destroyed two village polling stations and cut power to two others, forcing the authorities to move voting to safer areas, the domestic news agency Antara reported.

Al Jazeera’s Wayne Hay, reporting from Jakarta, said the turnout was likely to be more than the traditional 70 percent.

“The turnout might be more this time due to two different elections taking place as well as the divisive nature of the vote and the long election campaign where there were many disagreements surrounding issues like the economy and religion.”

The latest opinion polls in the lead-up to the election had Widodo-Amin leading by as many as 20 points, with a significant proportion of undecided voters.

Most political experts predict a closer result, however, given that 2014’s pre-election polls were similar, but Widodo ultimately beat Prabowo by just six points.

Wednesday will also see elections for parliamentarians taking place. Legislative elections are normally held months prior to presidential elections but the move means voters will be confronted with a list of tough choices.

More than 10,000 people have volunteered to crowd-source election results posted at polling stations in a real-time bid to thwart attempts at fraud.

However, the opposition has already alleged voter-list irregularities that could affect millions and has vowed legal or “people power” action if its concerns are ignored.

“We are very concerned, we hope and we pray that today’s election will be fair and peaceful, it will be peaceful if it’s fair. Hopefully, the will of the Indonesian people, will be heard today,” said Prabowo after casting his vote.

Last week, several videos appeared online apparently showing thousands of voting papers stuffed in bags at a warehouse in neighbouring Malaysia, with many apparently already marked.

The country’s election supervisory board has recommended a revote for Indonesians in Malaysia and in Australia, where several hundred registered voters were still standing in line after the polls closed there on Saturday.

A decision will be taken by the elections commission.

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