A state of suspended animation

A state of suspended animation

It has all the hallmarks of World War II's Phony War, but bombast and losing poll counts aside, Great Indonesia Movement (Gerindra) presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto is perfectly justified in waiting for the General Election Commission's (KPU) official election result next week.

Ahead by an average of five percentage points on eight quick counts - most by pollsters with credible track records - his Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P) rival Joko Widodo is equally justified in declaring victory in the July 9 election. Who wouldn't?

If the official count is any reflection, it will be difficult for the retired special forces general to mount a challenge in the Constitutional Court when confronted by a gap of six-to-seven million voters. Turning that around has never been done before.

Still, there's an uneasy feeling in the Joko camp that the phony war is preparing the ground for just that.

Mr Prabowo lost out in a power struggle when father-in-law president Suharto was forced from office in 1998. He's not going out with a whimper this time.

Make no mistake, this isn't a deadlock. Quick counts are remarkably accurate. All Mr Prabowo can probably hope for is that the official count is considerably closer to the 51-48 per cent registered by the Populi Centre, the most favourable to him among the eight pollsters.

The four other surveys he points to which give him a narrow winning margin were conducted by companies with less than stellar reputations.

Casting doubt appears to be the game plan, aided and abetted by American strategist Rob Allyn and Mr Prabowo's campaign manager Mohammad Mahfud, a former Constitutional Court chief justice from East Java's conservative Muslim island of Madura.

But whether Mr Prabowo, who declared on election day that "losing is not an option", is willing to push the envelope to the limit is still in question. His problem is that his critics always see the worst in him, so deeply ingrained in the public psyche are his past misdeeds.

He may well surprise everyone and gracefully throw in the towel. That's the complex nature of a reputed autocrat who flies off the handle one minute and is capable of unheralded acts of kindness the next.

By last weekend, more than 80 per cent of the ballot papers had been delivered to the KPU's Jakarta headquarters, with leaked reports indicating that Mr Joko was maintaining a 5 per cent lead in the official tally.

Mr Joko can thank his army of volunteers for apparently staving off Mr Prabowo's late poll surge.

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