On election night in the world’s third-largest democracy, Indonesians had the surreal option of tuning into alternative political realities. Supporters of presidential candidate Joko Widodo, or Jokowi as he is known here, could flick their television sets to MetroTV, a station that aired live footage of the Jakarta governor in his signature blue, red and white check shirt declaring he had won.

But over on TVOne, his opponent, the former army general Prabowo Subianto, was also proclaiming himself victorious, thanking the public for giving him a mandate to lead and later thrice pumping his fist into the air as he yelled merdeka (freedom).

Both candidates based their victories on differing exit polls. But with polling stations situated on more than 6,000 islands, the official vote takes weeks to compile. This race, touted as the tightest and most polarising in the country’s history, was always going to be close, but few could have predicted that it would result in a political limbo and two self-declared presidents.

The impasse is unlikely to be resolved until the official result is released by the elections commission on 22 July – and perhaps not even then, if it is contested at the Constitutional Court – but the majority of reputable pollsters are putting Jokowi in the lead.

For now, the country awaits a future led by one of two very different men: Jokowi the reformer and Prabowo, representative of an old guard that indulged in unsavoury practices in the days of President Suharto.

Raised in a bamboo shack in the central Java town of Solo, Jokowi has been shaking up Indonesian politics since he was elected Jakarta governor in September 2012. A former furniture entrepreneur turned mayor of Solo, Jokowi, as governor, has made unglamorous but significant changes to the lives of average Jakartans, adding more buses, building reservoirs and encouraging greater transparency in public offices. “I’ve only known Jokowi for a year and I already see changes,” said Angeline Christine, 30, at a central Jakarta polling booth on election day. “We need a leader who doesn’t just talk and make promises.”

But most importantly, Jokowi appears to have changed the way some Indonesians view their politicians: energising a previously apathetic populace by offering them an alternative to the old elite pack.

Indonesia has made laudable democratic gains since the fall of dictator Suharto in 1998, but many figures from the Suharto, or New Order, days remain influential today, as does his corrupt legacy. “In 1998 we managed to bring down the New Order. But to replace that with someone who has really been able to listen to aspirations of the people, we have failed for 16 years,” says former activist and now senior Jokowi adviser Hilmar Farid. “And now we have this guy here, Jokowi.” Speaking from a Jokowi volunteer centre in south Jakarta, manned by a small army of volunteers in matching check shirts and scarves, Farid said that, after 16 chaotic years of reform, Jokowi offers Indonesia a new sense of direction, and a feeling that ordinary citizens can participate in that change… see more

source: Guardian UK