Jakarta (AsiaNews) - Jakarta's outgoing governor, Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, 53, appears to be ahead of his rival, former General Prabowo Subianto, 62. Although his margin is small, exit polls indicate that the rising star in Indonesian politics might have enough to become Indonesia's next president.
A young man and moderate, he has kept away from the country's rampant corruption and shady wheeling and dealing. Conversely, his critics have accused him of not paying enough attention to Islam.
Perhaps for this reason, the presidential candidate made the minor pilgrimage to Makkah, ideally ending his campaign in the Muslim holy city.
Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim nation, as well as the third largest democracy. Islam plays a crucial role in local politics and was an issue in the race to succeed outgoing two-time President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
Held just in time for Ramadan, Islam's holy month of fasting and prayer, voting began at 7 am, and ended at one o'clock pm in each of the country's three time zones, from east (Papua) to west (Aceh).
More than 190 million people, 30 per cent first-timers, were eligible to cast their ballot at one of the 480,000 polling stations set up across the country, protected by massive security measures to prevent terrorist attacks or violence. In Jakarta alone, the authorities deployed at least 22,300 police officers.
Exit polls based on 90 per cent of polling stations give the Jokowi-Jusuf Kalla ticket 52.82 per cent of the vote against the rival Subianto-Hatta Radjasa ticket, which stands at 47.18 per cent.
The Election Commission (KPU) will release final results on 22 July, but appeals and complaints to the Constitutional Court could further delay the official announcement.
Speaking to hundreds of supporters in central Jakarta, the capital's outgoing governor Jokowi (pictured voting), said he was excited and thanked not only to those who voted for him, but to the whole country.
"Thanks to all those who, from Sabang and Merauke, volunteers and all political allies, helped me prepare the path to the State Palace," he said.
It was no accident that he cited Sabang and Merauke, respectively the eastern and western most tips of the Indonesian archipelago, in order to symbolise ideally the country's vast size, variety and complexity.
At the same time, Jokowi has called on his supporters to remain vigilant to prevent fraud or vote tampering before official results are announced.
His rival, former General Subianto, represents the "old guard", close to the ruling class in power for decades. He is not expected to admit defeat (for now) and is ready to do battle.
On many issues, the two candidates are not that far apart.
According to political analysts and local observers, the margin of victory should be very small after three rounds of voting.
Indonesia's new president will be inaugurated at a solemn ceremony on 20 October. In the following two weeks, he will appoint his cabinet.