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In Indonesia, Joko Widodo Secures Another 5-Year Term As President


Now to Indonesia, where current President Joko Widodo appears to have secured another five-year term in today's presidential election. Indonesia is the world's largest Muslim country, and the nation has been torn by debates over the role of religion there. Now the president's task will be to unify the country. NPR's Julie McCarthy reports from Jakarta.


UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (Singing in foreign language).

JULIE MCCARTHY, BYLINE: Eight hundred thousand polling stations, some with live music, opened this morning for the country's once-every-five-year presidential ballot. On this leafy street, large tents draped in red and white bunting housed the voting booths from which 48-year-old Adhi Rasjid stepped. He cast his ballot for the president, saying he would safeguard diversity.

ADHI RASJID: We're a country of different religions, different race, different languages. Everybody has the same right regardless whether you're a minority or you're in the majority.

MCCARTHY: President Joko Widodo, his eyes drooping but his signature white shirt crisp, called for unity. Seven months of a campaign saw fundamentalists malign him as not Islamic enough. His new vice president, a hardline cleric who had been a surprising choice, stood at his side, a symbol of the political calculation Widodo would deploy in dealing with the religious right. His tone was conciliatory.


PRESIDENT JOKO WIDODO: (Foreign language spoken).

MCCARTHY: "Let us reunite as family. Let us strengthen our unity," he said. He urged patience until the official results were in. But the unofficial tally, which has proven to be accurate in the past, came with head-snapping speed. The system known as quick counts doesn't rely on asking people how they voted but rather projects the winner from a sample of the actual ballots marked. And it's all over just two hours after the polls close. You might call it a model of efficiency if you weren't the challenger. Prabowo Subianto says his own tracking showed that he had won and insisted that some polls had opened late.

There's been no reports of violence, and the country seems prepared to accept the preliminary results. But how will the president govern as Islamic extremism raises its head? Ben Bland of the Australian-based Lowy Institute says distractions from the religious right could derail his bid to address a host of economic problems and rightly or wrongly unnerve international investors.

BEN BLAND: The fact is, in an era of Islamophobia all around the world, if Indonesia is becoming a bit more Islamic, a bit more pious, that just may make other countries and foreign investors a bit more uncomfortable. So I think everything just gets a little bit harder. It's not a disaster scenario.

MCCARTHY: Julie McCarthy, NPR News, Jakarta. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Julie McCarthy has spent most of career traveling the world for NPR. She's covered wars, prime ministers, presidents and paupers. But her favorite stories "are about the common man or woman doing uncommon things," she says.