JAKARTA - Indonesia's Joko "Jokowi" Widodo claimed victory in Wednesday's closely fought presidential race in what would be a triumph for a new breed of politician that has emerged in the world's third-largest democracy.
But ex-general Prabowo Subianto, the rival candidate who is seen as a representative of the old guard that flourished under decades of autocratic rule, refused to concede. His party said he still had a chance of winning.
After a quick count of about 90 per cent of votes, Jakarta governor Jokowi was ahead with about 5 per cent of the votes in what would be the narrowest victory in the three times that Indonesia has held direct presidential elections.
"We are thankful that according to the quick count announcements, until now, they show that Jokowi-JK at this moment in the count have won," Jokowi told reporters and jubilant supporters in south Jakarta. JK refers to his running mate Jufuf Kalla, who was a vice president in the first term of outgoing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
There has been no public comment yet by Prabowo.
"It's too early to say that (Jokowi has won). This is still in the quick count stage and several TV stations have different results. The final result will be July 22 by the KPU (Election Commission) so (we are) still optimistic that Prabowo (has won)," the vice chairman of Prabowo's Gerindra party, Fadli Zon, told Reuters.
The private quick counts have been reliable in past elections but an official result must await the Election Commission. Both sides have to wait until that announcement before they can register any protests with the Constitutional Court, the final arbiter over contested polls.
"There have always been challenges...So we could end up with delayed certainty for a few weeks," Douglas Ramage, a Jakarta-based political analyst told Reuters.
Ahead of the vote, the two candidates had been neck and neck in opinion polls.
There have been concerns of violence once the result is known, a worry alluded to by outgoing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono when he urged both sides to accept the result.
It has been the dirtiest and most confrontational campaign in memory in a country which traditionally holds up the value of consensus politics.
But there were no reports of any violence during the voting and in the early hours of counting.
The government declared Wednesday a public holiday and markets were closed although offshore rupiah rose against the dollar on Jokowi's victory claim.
"This is one of the most important elections in Indonesia's reformation history," Bernard Wanandi, 37, said at a polling station in Menteng, a Jakarta suburb. "As a young generation, we have high expectations of the new leader, hoping he will bring the country forward and change the country tremendously."