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Defense chief Prabowo on course to big win in Indonesia with over half of votes counted

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Jakarta, Indonesia – Indonesian DefenSe Minister Prabowo Subianto was on course to win the archipelago’s presidential election by a wide margin, election commission results showed Friday, with 50 percent of votes counted.

The official result is not expected until late March but early indications all point to the 72-year-old ex-general being anointed successor to popular outgoing leader Joko Widodo.

With half the ballots now counted, Prabowo holds a commanding 56.89 percent of votes, more than double his nearest rival and enough for a first-round majority, the election commission’s website showed.

Former Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan stood at 25.27 percent on Friday morning and former Central Java governor Ganjar Pranowo had 17.84 percent of the vote.

“Thank God, we must be grateful and continue to monitor the KPU’s official results,” Prabowo wrote on Instagram late Thursday, referring to the general election commission.

The fiery populist on Wednesday claimed a “victory for all Indonesians” based on preliminary results by government-approved pollsters — previously shown to be reliable — that showed he was set for a first-round majority.

But both of his rivals said they would wait for the official result and have not conceded.

Prabowo needs more than 50 percent of the overall vote and at least a fifth of ballots cast in over half the country’s 38 provinces to officially secure the presidency.

Analysts say his win is almost assured.

The former general said Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese had called to congratulate him, as well as the leaders of Singapore, Malaysia and Sri Lanka in his Instagram post, which showed him with a phone held to his ear.

But the United States has been more cautious, only congratulating the Indonesian people on the election’s “robust turnout” in a statement that did not mention Prabowo’s name.

Jokowi, as the incumbent leader is popularly known, told reporters Thursday he had met with Prabowo the previous evening to offer his “congratulations”.

He had been accused by some observers of backing his former rival and defence chief’s campaign in a bid to install a political dynasty before leaving office.

Jokowi’s eldest son Gibran Rakabuming Raka, 36, ran as Prabowo’s running mate.

Jokowi’s brother-in-law, then-chief justice, in October changed the rules that had barred candidates below the age of 40 from running for high office.

Some observers have also accused Jokowi of improperly using government funds to support Prabowo, who has rejected accusations of impropriety.

Prabowo’s election rivals have said they would investigate if there was any fraud in the vote, with the team of Ganjar Pranowo, polling third, saying they had found “systematic” fraud without providing evidence.

“Don’t say loudly it’s a fraud. If there was fraud, bring it to Bawaslu (election supervisory body). If there was fraud, bring it to the Constitutional Court,” Jokowi told reporters on Thursday.

While supporters of Prabowo reacted with jubilation outside his home and at a packed arena in the capital Jakarta after polls closed, activists whose children were shot dead or disappeared by military forces in the 1990s protested his win.

Outside the presidential palace, more than a hundred protesters gathered late Thursday, holding up yellow cards, blowing whistles and unfurling a banner that read “save democracy”.

Non-governmental organiZations and his former bosses accuse Prabowo of ordering the abduction of democracy activists towards the end of dictator Suharto’s three-decade rule. Prabowo was discharged but has denied responsibility and was never charged.

More than a dozen have never been found.

One of them is Paian Siahaan’s son Ucok, who disappeared in the last months of Suharto’s rule when Prabowo was a top commander. He was 22 when he went to a protest and never came back.

“This is beyond our prediction after following the campaigns and debates. We didn’t anticipate that he would win by such a wide margin,” said the 77-year-old.

“So we are consoling each other.” AFP

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