Indonesia set for polls

JAKARTA (AFP) – Dipping their fingers in ink to prevent double voting, Indonesians cast their ballots tomorrow in a bitterly contested presidential election, with the main rival to incumbent Joko Widodo already threatening to challenge the result over voter-fraud claims.

The Muslim-majority nation’s biggest-ever polls – with more than 190 million voters and 245,000 candidates vying for the presidency, parliament and local positions – is largely a referendum on Widodo’s infrastructure-driven bid to rev up Southeast Asia’s largest economy.

But, looming in the background, two decades of democratic gains are at risk of being eroded, analysts said, as the military creeps back into civilian life under Widodo, and his trailing rival Prabowo Subianto, a former general, eyes reforms that harken back to the Suharto dictatorship.

If he loses, Subianto’s camp has already warned it will challenge the results over voter-list irregularities. “It’s high stakes in this election,” said senior researcher at the Jakarta-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies Evan Laksmana.

“We simply don’t know what (Subianto) would do if he won and we don’t know if the institutional constraints in place would contain him.” Voting starts at 7am local time tomorrow in easternmost Papua and ends at 1pm at the other end of the country in Sumatra.

Ballots will be cast at more than 800,000 polling booths across the volcano-dotted country, from the tip of jungle-clad Sumatra and heavily populated Java island to beach paradise Bali and far-flung Sumbawa.

Voters will 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.

A series of so-called “quick counts” are expected to give a reliable indication of the presidential winner later tomorrow. Official results are not expected until May.