JAKARTA: Indonesian President Joko Widodo is leading the race to be re-elected, with pollsters giving him an edge over rival Prabowo Subianto hours after voting closed on Wednesday (Apr 17) across the 17,000-island archipelago.
The incumbent president, popularly known as Jokowi, is running against former military general Prabowo Subianto after a six-month campaign dominated by economic issues and the rising influence of political Islam.
While official results are not expected to be announced until next month, a series of so-called "quick counts" by pollsters showed Jokowi holding a strong lead.
The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) put the incumbent president as winning 56.7 per cent of votes, over Prabowo's 43.3 per cent.
"We are not claiming anything yet," executive director of pollster CSIS, Philips Vermonte told Reuters. "The data will likely stabilise at 90 per cent. Our staff are validating the data."
Other pollsters, including Saiful Mujani Research Centre, Indo Barometer and Indikator Politik Indonesia also showed Jokowi holding a strong lead.
As of 6pm Singapore time, Saiful Mujani Research Centre put Jokowi at 54.92 per cent against his rival's 45.08 per cent.
Indo Barometer listed the vote as 53.55 per cent to 46.45 per cent in Jokowi's favour, while Indikator Politik Indonesia put the race at 54.38 per cent to 45.62 per cent for the incumbent president.
The pollsters are among more than 40 groups accredited by Indonesia's election panel to conduct unofficial quick counts, based on samples from polling stations nationwide. Such counts by reputable companies have proven accurate in previous elections.
Jokowi told reporters at a press conference that he would wait until the official results are announced.
"We have seen the exit polls and quick counts but we need to be patient and wait for KPU's (General Elections Commission) official count," the incumbent president said.
Prabowo contradicted the pollsters, saying his own team's quick count shows he has won 52.2 per cent of the votes.
"There are efforts from certain pollsters to make it seem like we have lost," he said at a press conference. "Do not be provoked. Continue to monitor the counting of votes."
More than 10,000 volunteers crowd-sourced results posted at polling stations in a real-time bid to thwart attempts at fraud.
Before the election, the opposition alleged voter-list irregularities that it said could affect millions, vowing legal or "people power" action if its concerns were ignored.
Ferdinand Hutahaen, a spokesman for the Prabowo campaign, sought to soothe concerns this could mean a violent response.
"Don't consider 'people power' as a form of violence," he told reporters. "There will be no burning, killing. We will see what kind of 'people power' and revolution society wants. We don't want conflict in this country."
The eight-hour vote saw millions go to polling stations across a country that stretches more than 5,000km from its western to eastern tips. Indonesia is the world's third-biggest democracy.
Jokowi, a furniture businessman who entered politics 14 years ago as a small-city mayor, narrowly defeated Prabowo in the last election in 2014.
A senior government official close to the incumbent president said before the election that a win for Jokowi with 52 per cent to 55 per cent of the vote would be a "sweet spot", and enough of a mandate to press on with reforms.
The official election results will not be published until May. Any disputes can be taken to the Constitutional Court, where a nine-judge panel will have 14 days to rule on them.