Jumping the Gun

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Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto declared victory in Indonesia’s presidential election Thursday, after unofficial results showed him leading the race with enough votes to avoid a runoff, a victory that some analysts and voters see as a sign of democratic backsliding in the world’s third-largest democracy, CNN reported.

Results gathered by independent observers and think tanks showed, with more than 90 percent of the votes counted, Prabowo had secured nearly 60 percent of the votes–.

The country’s election commission is expected to announce the official results within the next month, with the new president and vice president taking office in October, according to Reuters.

Still, the former army general told supporters on Thursday that he and his running mate, Gibran Rakabuming Raka – the eldest son of President Joko Widodo – would govern “for all the people of Indonesia.”

However, the frontrunner’s rivals, former governors Anies Baswedan and Ganjar Pranowo, alleged the vote was plagued by “systematic and massive fraud,” but did not provide evidence. They added that it is too early to call the election results.

Prabowo’s victory is significant in Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous country and home to the world’s largest Muslim population. The election, billed as the world’s biggest single-day vote, saw more than 200 million eligible voters go to the polls in 38 provinces.

His path to the presidency is marked by a controversial past, including allegations of human rights violations during his military career under the late dictator Suharto – who was his former father-in-law.

The ex-special forces commander has denied the accusations and has since rebranded himself as a supporter of Indonesia’s democracy, and also as a warm and cuddly grandfather.

Widodo, while not explicitly endorsing any candidate, congratulated Prabowo on his victory, signaling a transition in leadership.

First elected in 2014, the outgoing president remains popular and his two terms in office have seen Indonesia experience strong economic growth.

But the Southeast Asian country has also regressed on human rights and corruption indexes during this period. Widodo also came under fire during the campaign for appearing prominently alongside Prabowo and for a court ruling allowing his son to join the main ticket, sparking accusations of political meddling and sidestepping the constitution.

Prabowo has pledged to continue his predecessor’s economic and infrastructure initiatives, but his declaration of victory has led some to express concern over electing a former military hardliner and a return to “dynasty politics.”

Political analyst Zachary Abuza told CNN that Prabowo “has worked really hard to reinvent himself and to whitewash his past.” He noted that having former army officials take the presidency could mark a return to the days of authoritarian rule.

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