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Prabowo set to become president, markets rally

Reuters - February 15, 2024

Jakarta – Prabowo Subianto looked set on Thursday to become Indonesia's next president later this year as unofficial counts had the ex-special forces commander winning a hotly contested election outright in the first round of voting.The 72-year-old defence minister declared a "victory for all Indonesians" before jubilant supporters late on Wednesday after so-called quick ballot counts by independent pollsters – accurate in past elections – showed he had won nearly 60 percent of the votes.

Indonesian markets cheered the clear-cut count and rallied on Prabowo's promise to follow President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's policies in Southeast Asia's largest economy. The country's stock market rose as much as 2.2 percent, while the rupiah strengthened 0.3 percent to its strongest in a month before paring back gains.

The veteran politician with a hardline military past had an insurmountable lead over rivals, ex-governors Anies Baswedan and Ganjar Pranowo, who trailed at least 33 points behind.

A slower, preliminary tally by the election commission with about 40 percent of votes counted put Prabowo in the lead with around 56 percent.

Both Anies' and Ganjar's teams earlier said they were probing allegations of "systematic and massive fraud", but did not provide evidence.

Analysts have said there were no signs of electoral fraud.

The national election agency is expected to announce official results by March 20 and, if confirmed, the new president will take office in October.

"His apparent one-round victory should remove uncertainty over who will lead the next administration," said Barclays economist Brian Tan. "He appears to be the outgoing President Joko Widodo's choice of successor and has promised policy continuity, which should provide some reassurance to investors."

Jokowi, as the popular incumbent is known, did not explicitly endorse any candidate, but Prabowo's running mate is the president's eldest son Gibran Rakabuming Raka, who is set to be the youngest vice-president in Indonesia's history.

The pair have pledged to continue Jokowi's efforts to position the resource-rich G20 economy as an electric-vehicle hub, extend a massive infrastructure and social assistance push, and create millions of jobs.

Second-place rival Anies, an ex-governor of Jakarta who got 25 percent of the vote, said his team would wait for the official results and respect the people's decision.

The days leading up to the vote were marred by protests against Jokowi, criticised over political interference after he made highly publicised appearances with Prabowo, and after a last-minute court ruling tweaked eligibility criteria, enabling his son to join the leading ticket.

Jokowi's allies have denied he meddled.

Prabowo has long been dogged by accusations of past misdeeds including involvement in the kidnapping of student activists in 1998 and human rights abuses in Papua and East Timor. The allegations are unproven, and he has always denied any responsibility.

During his campaign, he transformed his image from a hot-tempered nationalist and military hardliner to a cuddly, cat-loving grandfatherly figure, attracting a huge youth following on social media in a country where more than half of the nearly 205 million electorate are under 40.

Still, while his supporters celebrated Prabowo's apparent sweeping victory on his third attempt, the reaction of others in Indonesia ranged from caution to dismay.

#RIP DEMOKRASI was among the trending topics on the social media plaform X in Indonesia.

In an opinion piece entitled "Finally a Win", the Jakarta Post noted Prabowo's expected victory had come following a public outcry over alleged improper conduct by Jokowi in the election.

"The next step for Prabowo... will be to prove his critics wrong, that instead of an anti-democratic politician, he can be a consensus builder and a compassionate leader with a stable character," the newspaper said.

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/business/2024/02/15/prabowo-set-to-become-president-markets-rally.htm