Halal ink, giant ballots ready for Indonesian vote Wednesday

In this Sept. 21, 2018, file photo, Indonesian presidential candidates Prabowo Subianto, second from left, and his running mate Sandiaga Uno, left, Joko Widodo, second from right, and his running mate Ma'ruf Amin, show the ballot numbers that will represent them in the upcoming presidential election, during a draw at the General Election Commission office in Jakarta. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim, File)
Updated 16 April 2019
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Halal ink, giant ballots ready for Indonesian vote Wednesday

  • Some 193 million Indonesians are eligible to vote in presidential and legislative elections
  • President Joko Widodo is competing against Suharto-era general Prabowo Subianto

JAKARTA: Nearly 193 million Indonesians are eligible to vote in presidential and legislative elections on Wednesday. President Joko Widodo, the first Indonesian president from outside the Jakarta elite, is competing against Prabowo Subianto, a former special forces general from the era of authoritarian rule under military dictator Suharto.
Some election facts and figures:
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By the numbers
The election is a huge logistical exercise costing about 27.6 trillion rupiah ($1.9 billion). Indonesians are casting votes not only for president but about 20,500 other candidates standing for the Senate and legislatures at the national, provincial and district levels.
Election officials are providing more than 1.6 million bottles of halal-certified indelible ink for voters to dip a finger in after casting ballots at some 810,000 polling stations. The Election Commission estimates more than 17 million people are involved in ensuring the elections run smoothly, including volunteers, guards and registered witnesses for every polling station. But poster-sized ballots have drawn criticism as a challenge for elderly voters.

Police officers and soldiers assist a worker to carry ballot boxes and other election paraphernalia as they use horses to distribute them to polling stations in remote villages in Tempurejo, East Java, Indonesia, on April 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Trisnadi)

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Democratic outpost
After three decades of military rule ended in 1998, Indonesia has become the most robust democracy in Southeast Asia, a region where authoritarian governments and stage-managed elections are the norm.
But despite being the world’s most populous Muslim nation, the third-largest democracy and a member of the Group of 20 major economies, Indonesia has a low profile on the world stage. That is slowly changing, with the country recently becoming a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, announcing a bid to host the 2032 Olympics and analysts forecasting its economy to be among the world’s five largest by 2030.
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Campaign issues
The presidential contenders are stark contrasts in background and personality. The slightly nerdy Widodo is admired for his friendly, down-to-earth manner. Subianto, from a wealthy family, is prone to explosions of anger and has an emotional, tub-thumping style of campaigning. Both are nationalists and Muslims, though Subianto’s nationalism sits at the extreme end of the spectrum.
Subianto’s campaign has been negative and fear-based, emphasizing what he sees as Indonesia’s current dire situation and the risk of exploitation by foreign powers or disintegration. Widodo, the front-runner in all credible polls, has emphasized his government’s efforts to improve infrastructure and reduce poverty, and can show progress in both areas.


More than 60 dead in South Africa flooding after heavy rains

Updated 24 April 2019
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More than 60 dead in South Africa flooding after heavy rains

  • Rescue workers were digging through collapsed buildings on Wednesday
  • The rains mainly hit areas around the port city of Durban

DURBAN: At least 60 people have been killed and more than 1,000 have fled their homes after heavy rains caused flooding and mudslides along South Africa’s eastern coast, authorities said on Wednesday.
Most of the deaths were in KwaZulu-Natal province. Flooding also killed at least three people in neighboring Eastern Cape province, state broadcaster SABC said.
The rains mainly hit areas around the port city of Durban. Multiple dwellings collapsed in mudslides, said Robert McKenzie, a KwaZulu-Natal Emergency Medical Services spokesman.
Rescue workers were digging through collapsed buildings on Wednesday.
Victor da Silva, a resident of the coastal town of Amanzimtoti, said his family managed to evacuate before the floods destroyed their home and cars.
“On Monday, the water was just crazy. And yesterday morning I got here, everything was fine, my garage was still here, the other part of the house was still here, and it just couldn’t stop raining,” Da Silva said. “And then an hour and a half later, everything poof (vanished) because the rain just hasn’t stopped.
Authorities in southern Tanzania ordered evacuations of residents from low-lying areas and the closure of schools and offices ahead of landfall of Tropical Cyclone Kenneth on neighboring Mozambique’s coast on Thursday.
“We’ve decided to evacuate all residents of valleys and other low-lying areas and we advise them to seek refuge at public spaces,” Mtwara regional commissioner Gelasius Byakanwa, told reporters.
Johan Fourie said he fled his home in Amanzimtoti, Kwazulu-Natal, just before part of it collapsed.
“I nearly lost my life, and my neighbor, I believe, is in hospital,” Fourie told eNCA television.
The region had been hit by heavy rains for days, but authorities did not foresee the extent of the downpour late on Monday, said Lennox Mabaso, a spokesman for the provincial Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs department.
“As a result, there was flooding and some structures were undermined and collapsed on people,” Mabaso said.
Some people were swept away by the water, he added.
President Cyril Ramaphosa visited affected communities in KwaZulu-Natal on Wednesday and was expected in the Eastern Cape in the next few days.
“This is partly what climate change is about, that it just hits when we least expect it,” he said.
Last week, 13 people were killed during an Easter service in KwaZulu-Natal when a church wall collapsed after days of heavy rains and strong winds.