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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Monday, February 19, 2018

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Pro reform Joko Widodo declared new Indonesian president

Popular reform-minded governor of Jakarta won presidential vote

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JAKARTA - Jakarta's popular reform-minded governor, Joko Widodo, has won Indonesia's presidential vote after a divisive race that saw his opponent withdraw from the count.

Widodo, whose common man image has won him millions of fans, was Tuesday declared the winner of the country's presidential election. He had won with 53 percent - or more than 70 million votes - in the hard-fought July 9 poll.

The former furniture exporter known to most as "Jokowi", Widodo has called for the country to unify.

"This is a victory for all Indonesian people," Widodo said in a televised speech. "We hope this victory will pave the way to build Indonesia to be an independent economy."

"With our humility, we call on all Indonesians to return to being a united nation. Forget number one or two, we should return to number three [of Pancasila], the unity of Indonesia," he said in a live broadcast on TV.

"We have to be responsible again for our selves, especially for our children and grand children; politics is about happiness, wisdom and freedom," he said.

"An independent soul and sense of political responsibility blossoms in the soul of the new generation. Their enthusiasm which had sunk into torpor has returned," he told his supporters after the election victory.

Hours before the results were announced Widodo's opponent, Suharto-era general Prabowo Subianto, pulled out of the tally, terming the July 9 poll "undemocratic" and accused the Widodo team of committing fraud. Prabowo finished with an 8.4 million vote deficit to Widodo and has three days to file a challenge with the constitutional court.

Prabowo a former army strongman and now three-time failed presidential candidate, tried to pre-empt the announcement by "withdrawing" from the entire election process, saying it was the result of "massive cheating that is structured and systematic".

"We will exercise our constitutional rights by rejecting the presidential election because of its legal flaws and by retracting ourselves from the ongoing process," Prabowo said as he walked out of the electoral commission, where tallying was in its final stages.

The presidential campaign was marred by smear tactics from both camps. Widodo was the target of character assaults in the weeks before the election that accused him, among other things, of not being a follower of Islam which he denounced.

Indonesia has the world's fourth-largest population and is the most populous Muslim country.

The final count of almost 135 million votes, which were cast on July 9, showed the new president elect and his running mate Jusuf Kalla had won by a comfortable margin of 6.3 percent, or 8.4 million votes.

Widodo made his start as a furniture manufacturer and later became a provincial mayor.

He comes to power as Indonesia's economic growth rate and currency are weakening, its budget and current account deficits growing and the cost of its fuel subsidy increasing

The new president faces huge challenges in reducing corruption and red tape, and improving the poor state of health and education.

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