JAKARTA - Jakarta Governor Joko "Jokowi" Widodo looked to be heading for a narrow victory in Indonesia's presidential election on Wednesday, early quick counts showed, in what would be a triumph for a new breed of politician that has emerged in the fledgling democracy.
After polls closed across the vast archipelago at 1 p.m. (0600 GMT), a tally of about 60 per cent of the votes showed Jokowi was ahead of former general Prabowo Subianto, who is seen as a representative of the old guard that flourished under decades of autocratic rule.
An exit poll conducted by the Indonesian Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) also showed Jokowi narrowly ahead with 45.1 per cent versus Prabowo's 42.2 per cent.
"This is a good day for the Indonesian nation and the Indonesian people. I'm very confident," media quoted Jokowi as saying when he cast his vote in the capital, wearing a traditional batik print shirt and accompanied by his wife.
His rival Prabowo, wearing a white safari shirt and the national black "peci" hat and looking equally confident, said: "We respect the democratic process and, of course, we should conduct a good and correct process and show respect."
Ahead of the vote, only the third direct election for president in the world's fourth-most populous nation, 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.
The private quick counts, which have been reliable in the past, are expected to give a clear result by early evening. The official result will be announced about two weeks later.
It has been the dirtiest and most confrontational campaign in memory in a country which traditionally holds up the value of consensus politics.
The election is being held during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, in the country with the world's biggest population of Muslims.
The government declared Wednesday a public holiday and markets were closed. Normally congested streets in Jakarta were mostly empty and polling stations across the archipelago seemed to be coping well with a steady stream of voters.
"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."
There has been growing frustration over the way Indonesia has been governed with corruption rampant and economic growth slowing.