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July 22, 2014

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What now for Indonesia after poll dispute?

Updated Wednesday, July 9, 2014 | 11:49 p.m.

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Jakarta Governor Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and former army general Prabowo Subianto are both claiming victory in Indonesia's presidential election based on unofficial "quick counts," raising the specter of prolonged political instability in Southeast Asia's largest economy.

Here is a look at which candidate has the stronger case for claiming victory, and what might happen in the coming days and weeks.

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WHAT IS A QUICK COUNT?

Researchers tally votes at a random sample of polling stations, allowing them to make a reliable projection of the national vote. Civil society organizations have used the method to accurately forecast election results in scores of countries over the last 15 years. Proponents say making this data available reduces the risk of fraud in the aggregation process. Quick counts have accurately forecast the results of regional and national elections in Indonesia since 2009.

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WHAT HAS HAPPENED THIS TIME AROUND IN INDONESIA?

At least 12 organizations, among them research groups and media organizations, carried out their own quick counts. Of those, eight show Widodo with a lead of between 4 percent and 5 percent. The rest project a Subianto victory by between 1 percent and 4 percent. Most of those projecting a Widodo victory have been carried out by independent organizations with a long track record of running quick counts and other opinion surveys, and have predicted the results of earlier elections, making them far more credible. Two of those projecting a Subianto win have been carried out by television stations openly supporting his bid.

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WHAT NOW?

All eyes are on the Election Commission of Indonesia, which is counting the votes and says it will announce them by July 22. If Widodo wins, as is considered highly likely given the quick count data, then Subianto could challenge the vote in the Constitutional Court if he can find evidence of fraud or other irregularities. Judges can reject the petition outright if they believe it lacks merit. If they agree to hear the case, they must rule before August 24.

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IS SUBIANTO LIKELY TO KEEP UP THE FIGHT?

Subianto and the business, military and political elite backing his bid have invested many millions in trying to win the election. Most analysts don't expect them to give up now. But Subianto faces an uphill challenge. Few expect that he will concede on the basis of the quick counts, but public opinion is likely to turn against him if official results show that he has lost decisively. Widodo fears that voter fraud could still take place, and has urged his supporters to closely monitor the count. Corruption remains rampant in Indonesia and many of its state institutions are vulnerable to political pressure and bribery. Last month, the former head of the Constitutional Court was sentenced to life imprisonment for accepting bribes while ruling on a regional election dispute.