Jakarta. Preliminary results from key voting districts in the regional elections held on Wednesday (27/06) show wins for popular candidates with proven track records, demonstrating that voters' preferences transcend religious and ethnic sentiments.
Award-winning Bantaeng district chief Nurdin Abdullah has a double-digit lead over his closest rival in the South Sulawesi gubernatorial race, based on several quick counts taken from a random sample of polling stations.
Former Bandung Mayor Ridwan Kamil leads in the West Java gubernatorial race after securing around 32 percent of the vote, while in Central Java, popular incumbent Ganjar Pranowo secured a landslide victory over contender Sudirman Said, a former minister in President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's cabinet.
Quick-count results by pollsters also indicate a win for Khofifah Indar Parawangsa, another former minister in Jokowi's cabinet, who ran against incumbent, Deputy Governor Saifullah Yusuf.
"I think this indicates that people have a strong preference for candidates who have already proven themselves ... as long as they do not incite too much controversy," said Ali Munhanif, a political scientist at Syarif Hidayatullah Islamic University in Tangerang, Banten, and researcher at pollster Saiful Mudjani Research and Consulting.
Ali compared the trend to Jokowi's trajectory over the past decade, having started as a successful mayor and then governor before becoming president.
"I hope this will become a good precedent for our democracy," Ali said.
Voters in North Sumatra chose retired army general Edy Rahmayadi over former Jakarta Governor Djarot Syaiful Hidayat, who is also a former mayor of Blitar, East Java.
Polling stations across the country are still counting votes after tens of millions of Indonesians cast their ballots in generally peaceful regional elections in 171 cities, districts and provinces. The General Elections Commission (KPU) said the recapitulation of votes in this week's regional elections will take place between June 27 and July 9.
The government decided to declare the voting day as a national holiday to ensure a high turnout. Close to Rp 16 trillion ($1.1 billion) was spent on logistics and more than 171,000 security personnel were deployed across the country to secure polling stations.
"I have received reports from several regions that the election of governors, districts chiefs and mayors proceeded in a safe, orderly, controlled and peaceful manner, in line with public expectations," Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Wiranto said.
The South Jakarta District Court sentenced Aman Abdurrahman, leader of Islamic State-affiliated Jemaah Ansharut Daulah, to death on Friday last week for his role in a series of terrorist attacks in the country. Security experts said the decision was likely to ignite a backlash from the group.
The National Police's elite anti-terrorism squad, Densus 88, killed two suspected terrorists in Depok, West Java, over the weekend after uncovering a plot to detonate bombs on election day.
Wiranto said the government also had to delay voting in two districts in Papua, following an attack on security personnel in Nduga district and a voter dispute in Pinai district.
"But overall, this election has run smoothly across the country," he said.
Political analysts agree that wins for Jokowi-backed candidates in key regions will likely bolster his chances for reelection in next year's presidential election.
The appointment of a senior National Police official, Comr. Gen. M. Iriawan, as interim governor of West Java, the province with largest number of voters, sparked controversy last week over concerns among opposition parties that the government may try to use the state's security apparatus to meddle in the election to secure wins for candidates backed by the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P).
However, Wiranto said these concerns were unfounded.
"For that, the president has warned them repeatedly to remain neutral. If there are any violations, we would take [disciplinary] action," the minister said.
Dedi Mulyadi, the running mate of Democratic Party candidate Deddy Mizwar in the West Java gubernatorial election, said polling in the province was safe and fair.
"I must thank the West Java provincial government. Mr. Irawan has done a good job. I also want to thank all stakeholders, including the police, intelligence service, armed forces, elections commission and election watchdog," Dedi said.
KPU chairman Arief Budiman said the atmosphere during the election emphasized an ideal and healthy democracy.
"Good elections have predictable procedures but unexpected outcomes," Arief said.