Indonesian president-elect Jokowi calls for unity after bitter election

Indonesian president-elect Jokowi calls for unity after bitter election

JAKARTA - Joko "Jokowi" Widodo was declared the winner of Indonesia's presidential election on Tuesday, bringing the promise of major reforms to the world's third largest democracy.

The Elections Commission, known as KPU, said the Jakarta governor had won by just over six percentage points, with 53.15 per cent of the nearly 130 million votes cast on July 9.

It was the closest and most bitterly fought election in Indonesia's history, pitting Jokowi against former general Prabowo Subianto, whose promise of strong leadership brought echoes of decades under autocratic rule.

"This victory is a victory for all the people of Indonesia," the president-elect told hundreds of supporters gathered at a port on the outskirts of the capital Jakarta, chosen to emphasise his commitment to Indonesia's maritime potential.

He and his vice president-elect, Jusuf Kalla, arrived by speed boat.

"With humility, we ask the people...to go back to a united Indonesia," he added.

In an interview with Reuters before the result was announced, Jokowi promised to simplify life for investors by beefing up the country's threadbare infrastructure, unravel near impenetrable regulations and sack ministers if they were not up to the job.

The United States, which sees Indonesia as an increasingly important partner in Asia in the face of growing Chinese power and assertiveness, was quick to offer congratulations.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said bilateral ties had strengthened to the point where the two countries "can jointly address common regional and global challenges."

"The United States looks forward to working with President-elect Widodo as we deepen our partnership, promote our shared objectives globally, and expand people-to-people ties between our nations," Kerry said in a statement.

Jokowi's can-do approach, impatience with bureaucracy and willingness to communicate directly with ordinary people has won him a huge following in a country where close to 40 per cent of the population live below or close to the poverty line.

When he moves into the presidential palace in October he will be Indonesia's seventh president, its third to be elected by direct vote and its first to be a businessman and not come from the elite.

Tuesday's vote count nearly came unstuck after his rival accused the KPU of failing to properly investigate allegations of what his team said was widespread cheating.

But, unexpectedly, Prabowo decided not to challenge the result in the Constitutional Court, his lawyer Mahendradatta said. That could have dragged out the process for several weeks.

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