JAKARTA: More than 190 million Indonesians cast a ballot, with a record 245,000 candidates running for public office in the world’s third-biggest democracy, from the presidency and parliamentary seats to local positions.
Early preliminary results in Indonesia’s presidential election show President Joko Widodo ahead of challenger Prabowo Subianto by 10 to 12 percentage points.
The so-called “quick counts” from reputable survey organizations that use a sample of polling stations have been reliable in past elections.
With between 40 and 50 percent of sample polling stations counted, four polling organizations showed Widodo winning 54 to 56 percent of the votes.
Official results from the Election Commission are expected in May.
Indonesians have voted in one of the world’s biggest one-day elections on Wednesday in a race to lead the world’s most populous Muslim country.
More than 190 million Indonesians cast a ballot as polls opened shortly after 7:00 am local time (2200 GMT Tuesday) in restive Papua.
The vote ended at 1:00 pm (0600 GMT) in Sumatra at the other end of the volcano-dotted archipelago.
Some voters went to their local mosque before casting ballots, as the daily call to prayer sounded across a nation that is nearly 90 percent Muslim.
Opinion polls show Widodo, 57, is a clear favorite – but he faces a tough challenge from Subianto, 67, who has leaned on a fiery nationalist ticket and warned he will challenge the results over voter-list irregularities if he loses.
Subianto narrowly lost to Widodo in 2014 elections, and unsuccessfully challenged those results.
Voters will flock to more than 800,000 polling stations where they’ll punch holes in ballots – to make clear their candidate choice – and then dip a finger in ink, a measure to prevent double-voting in a graft-riddled country where ballot buying is rife.
The polls present a huge logistical challenge in a country stretching 4,800 kilometers across more than 17,000 islands with a population of more than 260 million, including hundreds of ethnic groups and languages.
Officials are moving cardboard ballot boxes by motorbikes, boats and – as well as elephants and horses – to reach mountaintop villages and communities deep in the jungle.
The poll has been punctuated by bitter mudslinging and a slew of fake news online that threatens to sway millions of undecided voters.
Widodo has campaigned on his ambitious drive to build much-needed roads, airports and other infrastructure across Southeast Asia’s largest economy.
Raised in a bamboo shack in a riverside slum, the soft-spoken Widodo stands in stark contrast to Subianto, whose strongman image is underscored by a penchant for slamming lecterns as he accuses Jakarta of selling the country off to foreign interests.
Subianto – joined by running mate Sandiaga Uno, a 49-year-old wealthy financier -takes a page from US President Donald Trump, vowed to put “Indonesia first” by reviewing billions of dollars in Chinese investment.
Subianto’s long-held presidential ambitions have been dogged by strong ties to the Suharto family and a chequered past.