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Widodo expected to be declared winner of Indonesia presidential poll

Jakarta governor Joko Widodo is expected on Tuesday to be declared the winner of Indonesia's tightest presidential election since the end of authoritarian rule but his rival, ex-general Prabowo Subianto, will likely drag out the fight with a legal challenge.

JAKARTA: Jakarta governor Joko Widodo is expected on Tuesday to be declared the winner of Indonesia's tightest presidential election since the end of authoritarian rule but his rival, ex-general Prabowo Subianto, will likely drag out the fight with a legal challenge.

More than 250,000 police officers will be on duty across the world's third-biggest democracy for the announcement of the results two weeks after the bitterly-fought poll, in which both candidates declared victory.

Voters faced a stark choice between Widodo, from a new breed of politicians without roots in the era of Suharto, and Prabowo, a figure from the old guard who won support with fiery nationalistic speeches but has a checkered human rights record.

The election standoff has emerged as a major challenge for the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation 16 years after decades of authoritarian rule came to a chaotic end.

While reliable pollsters and private websites monitoring the vote tally predict a victory of several points for Widodo, known by his nickname Jokowi, Prabowo insists his opponents have cheated and says he will not accept the result if he loses.

The results will be announced on Tuesday when the election commission has completed final checks.

"It's the biggest test of the electoral system since 1999," said Jakarta-based political analyst Paul Rowland, referring to the year of the first free election in Indonesia after the Suharto era.

There are fears the tension could spark unrest in a country that was hit by repeated outbreaks of violence in the years after Suharto's downfall, and put its fragile democratic institutions under huge pressure.

The political deadlock has also set investors in Southeast Asia's top economy on edge. Most are hoping for a Widodo win, seeing the 53-year-old as a clean leader in an otherwise graft-ridden country and a potential reformer.

Tensions have escalated dramatically since the election as each side accused the other of seeking to tamper with the votes during the lengthy process of counting across the world's biggest archipelago nation.

At the weekend Prabowo's side repeated allegations of massive fraud by his opponents during the count and demanded the announcement of results be delayed - a request swiftly rejected by the election commission.

His team confirmed that, if he loses, it will challenge the results at the Constitutional Court, which has until late August to issue a ruling.

There have been concerns about the institution's impartiality after its chief justice was jailed for life for corruption - however analysts believe the court will be keen to prove it is clean, and is likely to side with Widodo.

Despite Prabowo's insistence he has won, some members of his team have reportedly conceded defeat and even President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono hinted on Monday that he should accept the expected official results, saying: "Conceding defeat is noble."

Widodo, who won legions of fans as Jakarta governor with his common touch, was the long-time favourite to become president, but a huge poll lead he held for months dwindled to single digits during a hard-fought election campaign.

However on election day, pollsters with a track record of accurately predicting Indonesian election outcomes gave Widodo a slim but decisive lead, and only a small number of less well-known survey institutes called a win for Prabowo, 62.

Whoever wins will take over from Yudhoyono, also a former general, who steps down in October after a decade in power.

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