(JAKARTA, Indonesia) — Voting is underway in presidential and legislative elections Wednesday in Indonesia, the world’s third-biggest democracy, after a campaign that pitted the moderate incumbent against an ultranationalist former general.
The first votes were cast in easternmost provinces after polling booths opened at 7 a.m. followed an hour later by central regions such as Bali and then the capital Jakarta and western provinces. Indonesia, a sprawling archipelago of 17,000 islands, has three time zones.
About 193 million people are eligible to vote in polls that will decide who leads the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation. Indonesians are also voting for Senate and national, provincial and district legislatures.
The presidential race is a choice between five more years of the steady progress achieved under Indonesia’s first president from outside the Jakarta elite, Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, or electing Prabowo Subianto, a former general from the era of the Suharto military dictatorship.
Opinion polls have consistently given a large lead to Widodo of up to 20 percentage points though analysts say the race is likely tighter.
“I’ve voted for Jokowi because five years in office was not enough for him to complete his brilliant programs for infrastructure, health and education,” said Eko Cahya Pratama, 43, after voting in Tangerang on the outskirts of Jakarta.
“For me, this country is better to be managed by a man with a clean track record rather than a dirty one in the past,” he said.
Widodo’s campaign highlighted his progress in poverty reduction and improving Indonesia’s inadequate infrastructure with new ports, toll roads, airports, and mass rapid transit — which became a reality last month in Jakarta, the country’s chronically congested capital.
A strident nationalist, Subianto has run a fear-based campaign, highlighting what he sees as Indonesia’s weakness and the risk of exploitation by foreign powers or disintegration.
“He deserves to get my vote because I was impressed with his commitment to create a clean government and a great nation,” said Anneka Karoine, 43, after she and her husband voted for Subianto and his running mate tycoon Sandiaga Uno. “I believe they will lead our country better than the current leader.”
Voting ends at 1 p.m. and so called “quick count” results are expected after about two hours.