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June 23, 2017

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Widodo wins Indonesian presidential race

JAKARTA -- The reform-minded governor of teeming Jakarta, Joko Widodo, has comfortably won Indonesia's closely fought presidential race against a controversial ex-general with deep roots in the era of strongman Suharto, final results showed Tuesday.

Widodo, known by his nickname Jokowi, won around 53 percent of the vote compared to about 47 percent for Prabowo Subianto, according to a final tally cited by local media in the world's third biggest democracy.

The official announcement of the result of the July 9 election was expected shortly at press time.

Widodo's victory caps a meteoric rise for the former furniture exporter who was born in a riverbank slum. It will be welcomed by investors who hope he can breathe new life into Southeast Asia's biggest economy after a recent slowdown.

Voters faced a stark choice between governor Widodo, from a new breed of politicians without links to the autocratic Suharto era, and Prabowo, a figure from the old guard with a checkered human rights record.

The news came just hours after Prabowo — who had also claimed victory in the election — alleged fraud and said he was withdrawing from the race.

Prabowo, 62, had been widely expected to challenge the result in the Constitutional Court if he lost, but a spokesman for his team said this was no longer an option since they had withdrawn from the whole process.

The decision removes the prospect of prolonged political deadlock because the court would not have ruled until the end of August.

Speaking to reporters earlier in Jakarta, Prabowo claimed there had been "a massive, structured and systematic fraud" in the 2014 elections.

"The presidential election, organized by the (election commission), is not democratic," he told reporters, adding the commission was "not fair or transparent."

Widodo however insisted that "everything was transparent, everything was open" during the election in the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation. Independent analysts have said the poll has been largely free and fair.

Widodo was the long-time favorite to become president. But a huge poll lead he held for months dwindled to single digits during the most divisive election campaign of Indonesia's short democratic era, which began with Suharto's fall in 1998.

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 lesser-known survey institutes called a win for Prabowo.

Widodo, 53, won legions of fans during his time as Jakarta governor with his common touch, regularly making visits to the city's slums in casual clothes.

In contrast Prabowo, who won support with fiery nationalistic speeches, used to command the army's feared special forces during the Suharto era and was formerly married to one of the dictator's daughters.

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