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April 30, 2017

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Indonesia's election too close to call

JAKARTA -- Both sides claimed victory Wednesday in Indonesia's tightest and most divisive presidential election since the end of authoritarian rule, as unofficial tallies showed Jakarta governor Joko Widodo leading over ex-general Prabowo Subianto.

The standoff in the hotly contested race to lead the world's third-biggest democracy prompted President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to call for restraint from both sides until official results are announced in two weeks' time.

The popularity of Widodo — known as "Jokowi" and the first serious presidential contender without roots in the era of dictator Suharto — was clear earlier in the day, when hundreds of supporters mobbed him as he voted in central Jakarta.

As a series of unofficial tallies, which are considered reliable, started to show him with a lead of four to five percentage points, a smiling Widodo declared victory flanked by members of his party, extending his thanks to "all the Indonesian people."

But shortly afterwards Prabowo, who has admitted ordering the abduction of democracy activists before the Suharto's downfall in 1998 and was formerly married to one of the strongman's daughters, also claimed victory.

The 62-year-old, who has pushed a strongman image on the campaign trail to win votes, said survey institutes used by his campaign team showed that he and running mate Hatta Rajasa "have received the support and mandate from the people of Indonesia."

Speaking earlier in the day, he had pledged to "respect the people's decision."

However he added: "It must be really their decision and not an engineered one. If it's engineered, we must take clear action."

Behave Like Statesmen

A spokesman for Widodo's campaign, Anies Baswedan, called on Prabowo and his running mate to behave like "statesmen," adding that "all credible survey institutes declared our victory."

The close race has sparked fears of unrest, and Yudhoyono urged both sides to "restrain themselves and not organize street rallies to celebrate until the announcement by the (election commission)."

The commission is not expected to announce the official results until July 22, due to the complexity of holding elections across the archipelago of more than 17,000 islands that spans three time zones.

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