JAKARTA, Indonesia – Indonesia's biggest opposition party came out ahead in early election tallies Thursday, but the showing was far less than expected given the popularity of its pick for president, viewed as the favorite in this summer's presidential race.
The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, or PDI-P, garnered nearly 20 percent of the vote, according to early results. The party's popular nominee for the top job, Jakarta Gov. Joko Widodo, known affectionately as Jokowi, had created a buzz and topped polls ahead of Wednesday's legislative elections.
But analysts say the July 9 presidential race will likely be harder to win since his party fell short of the 27 percent of the vote it had hoped to win.
"PDI-P has failed to take advantage of the Jokowi effect in its campaign," said Hanta Yuda, executive director of the Jakarta-based Pol-Tracking Institute. He added that the party did not utilize Widodo's popularity enough during national campaigning and through television ads, and it failed to respond to negative comments lobbed by opponents.
Preliminary quick count results put the Golkar party in second place with around 15 percent of the vote, followed by the Great Indonesia Movement Party, or Gerindra, with 12 percent. The two presidential hopefuls from those parties are business tycoon Aburizal Bakrie and former general Prabowo Subianto, respectively.
Parties need to secure 20 percent of the seats in the House of Representatives or 25 percent of the overall vote to nominate a presidential candidate. Otherwise, a coalition must be formed with one or more parties.
"Thank God, the people have chosen PDI-P as the winner," Widodo said.
"I think it's not possible for PDI-P to work alone. We have to cooperate with those having the same platform, and PDI-P is widely open for such a coalition," he said of his party, which has been out of power for a decade.
Some 6,607 candidates from 12 parties were competing for 560 seats in the more powerful House of Representatives. Some 945 others were vying for places in the Senate and regional representatives. Thousands more were competing for provincial and local councils.
Widodo, a former furniture producer, is a newcomer to national politics, but many support his simple style, humble background and willingness to reach out to the poor. He was topping opinion polls months before being nominated by his party in March.
Official results will be announced next month, but the early counts, based on polling organizations, are generally considered reliable.
Indonesia, a country of 240 million, is the world's third-largest democracy after India and the United States, and the most populous Muslim nation. The 12 main parties are either secular nationalist or moderate based loosely on Islam. A recent survey showed support for Islamic parties had plunged, but the early results revealed that they fared much better than expected.
About 75 percent of voters went to the polls, up from 70 percent in 2009 elections, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Voter apathy has been a concern in a country plagued by cronyism and rampant corruption that continues to blight high-ranking members of political parties.
Indonesia's one-day election is massive undertaking. Nearly 187 million people across three time zones were eligible to cast ballots at more than half a million makeshift booths throughout the sprawling country, from the restive eastern province of Papua to the devout Muslim province of Aceh in the west.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is constitutionally barred from seeking a third term. His Democratic Party, which garnered around 10 percent in the early count, has been ensnared in a spate of high-profile corruption scandals.
Some voters said they would still support Widodo, even though the race will likely be harder to win. Others said Wednesday's showing is likely linked to skepticism about who's really behind the party's campaign.
"People are still afraid that Jokowi is only a puppet of Megawati who's still eager to hold the power," said accountant Amalia Tahira, 35, referring to party leader and former President Megawati Sukarnoputri. "We need a strong leader who cannot be steered by anyone."
Associated Press writer Niniek Karmini contributed to this report from Jakarta, Indonesia.