Indonesia begins voting with ex-general Subianto the favourite


Jakarta: Indonesians started vote Election for new President along with Defense Minister on Wednesday prabowo subianto At the forefront despite concerns over his human rights record and claims of inappropriate support for the outgoing leader joko widodo,
Polls show Subianto, a military chief during the Suharto dictatorship a generation ago, is headed to win a majority, avoiding a second round of fighting.
Widodo, 72, is the clear favorite after a campaign that mixed populist rhetoric with pledges to continue the policies of Widodo, who is extremely popular but is required by the constitution to step down after nearly a decade in power.
“We will fight to bring prosperity to all people Indonesia, “We will continue what was already being built by previous presidents,” Subianto told supporters at a weekend campaign rally.
In only the fifth presidential election since the end of Suharto's dictatorship in 1998, about 205 million people are eligible to vote for Subianto or his rivals, Anis Baswedan and Ganjar Pranowo.
Polling stations opened at 7.00 am (2200 GMT) in the easternmost region of Papua and were due to close at 01.00 pm (0600 GMT) in jungle-clad Sumatra at the other end of the country.
In the town of Timika in Papua, officials inspected makeshift polling stations made of logs, metal sheets and palm leaves as voters flocked to see lists of candidates.
“I will vote for whoever will do the best to develop Papua,” Dayton, a 19-year-old student who gave only his first name, told AFP from the area. Where separatists have been waging a rebellion for decades.
Before voting began in the capital Jakarta, the storm left roads inundated, leaving some areas flooded.
Subianto needs to get more than 50 percent of the total vote and at least one-fifth of the ballots cast in 38 provinces, more than half of the country, to secure the presidency.
'Sense of change'
Former Jakarta governor Baswedan, widely seen as the favorite to challenge Subianto in the event of a second round of runoff vote, was confident as voting began.
“Day by day I can feel that the spirit of change is getting stronger, it is undeniable,” he told broadcaster Metro TV.
Pranowo, a former governor of Central Java, was initially seen as the leading contender, but his campaign has faltered badly.
Rights groups have expressed concerns that Subianto could roll back hard-won democratic freedoms, pointing to allegations that he ordered the kidnapping of democracy activists at the end of Suharto's rule.
Subianto was dismissed from the army in 1998 on kidnapping charges. The United States denied him a visa for years, but he denied the charges and was never charged.
“We have always been concerned about his commitment to democracy,” said Yoes Kenawas, a researcher at Atma Jaya Catholic University in Jakarta.
“If he wins the election, these questions will always remain.”
But Subianto has since reestablished his image, partly thanks to a savvy social media campaign targeting Indonesia's youth, portraying him as a “loving grandfather.”
Another important factor in his popularity is having Widodo's eldest son, Gibran Rakabuming Raka, as his vice-presidential candidate.
Widodo enjoys near-record approval ratings after two terms overseeing steady economic growth and relatively stable politics in the country's young democracy.
But some legal experts and rights groups have accused Widodo of improperly using government funds to support Subianto.
'Just attacks'
Questions have also been raised as to how 36-year-old Raaka became Subianto's associate.
In October, Indonesia's then-chief justice, who is Widodo's brother-in-law, changed rules that had barred candidates under 40 from running for high office.
Subianto and his colleagues have rejected all allegations of impropriety.
And many voters are willing to ignore Subianto's past, or do not know about the allegations.
“It's just attacks from opponents,” Novita Agustina, 24, said at a weekend rally.
More than 800,000 polling stations will operate on Wednesday, which was declared a national holiday for the country's approximately 280 million people.
More than 57 lakh employees will be deployed at polling stations that will open only for six hours. There are more than 20,000 seats up for grabs, from district level to national parliamentary seats and the presidency.
Official results are not expected until March, but a so-called “quick count” is expected to provide a reliable indication of a winner on Wednesday.

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