Across Indonesia, up to 190 million voters went to the polls yesteraday to choose their next president. In Jakarta the faces of the two candidates, Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo and Prabowo Subianto, had mostly disappeared from advertisements in public spaces under an enforced cooling off period, appearing again on sample ballot papers at the entrances of polling stations across the city.
The main streets of the capital were uncharacteristically empty, while neighbourhood polling stations were bustling with people lining up to cast their vote. This year's election falls in the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, meaning that many voters in the Muslim-majority nation headed for the polling booth after their pre-dawn meal. By mid-morning, voters in Jakarta were lined up in the sun, patiently attended to by General Elections Commission (KPU) officials and volunteers, many of whom had had nothing to eat or drink since dawn.
One neighbourhood station I visited in East Jakarta was a Prabowo stronghold. Flags bearing the crest of Gerindra, Prabowo's party, were still strung up in the alleyways, having survived the ban on political advertising for the two days prior to the election. Those with ink on their fingers, a sign of having voted, spoke quietly when asked about their choice. 'I chose someone,' one woman said ambiguously, while holding up one finger hidden behind a Rp 5000 note, indicating a vote for Prabowo, ballot number one. Others were more upfront about their choice. 'Number one,' a motorcycle taxi driver said proudly. 'He is the only one capable of leading this country, both here and overseas. Jokowi is only a mayor, he has no experience overseas.'
A block away, Jokowi was the neighbourhood choice. Several people had worn checkered shirts to the ballot box, a symbol of Jokowi's campaign, while others wore attributes of Indonesia's first president, Sukarno. Prabowo had tried to associate himself with Sukarno in his campaign, including by donning the traditional peci cap and giving fiery speeches from behind old-style microphones. But these voters in East Jakarta still associated Sukarno with Jokowi and his party, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), led by Sukarno's daughter, Megawati Sukarnoputri. 'Jokowi is honest,' they said. 'He comes from the people.' They held up two fingers to indicate their preference for Jokowi, ballot number two.
It may take up to two weeks to announce the official results of the election and name Indonesia's new president, though quick counts and exit poll results indicate a Jokowi victory. Concerns have been raised about potential conflict over the results, due to the close margin between the candidates. Without a clear majority for either side, results are likely to be fiercely contested. However, if voting day in Jakarta is anything to go by, Indonesia's democratic system is capable of handling the transition peacefully.